The Pine City girls basketball team ended their season on Friday night with a loss in the Section 6AA Championship Game. And while the loss might not sit well with Ted Hasz and his squad, the memories of this season will all be good.
This season was a culmination of the last several seasons all put together. The girls have been working and playing together now for several years and have been looking to bring it all together into a deep playoff run. The Dragons capped off another successful regular season with a record of 21-5 and a second place finish in the Great River Conference. They picked up key wins over teams like Milaca, North Branch, and Aitkin. But still saw losses to tough conference opponents Rush City, Foley, and St. Cloud Cathedral. But the Dragons knew heading into the Section 6AA playoffs that they could make a run and end up in the Section Tournament.
The girls were given a six seed in the section. A fair seed, but one that would grant them no easy games in the playoffs. They saw a playoff path that would possibly pit them up against St. Cloud Cathedral and Rush City once again.
Pine City 66
The Spectrum team would not go down easy. A very tough #11 seed that was determined to pull off an upset. Both teams came out shooting the ball very well. Ted Hasz told WCMP, "Offensively, we had a very good first 8 minutes, but we had a hard time slowing Spectrum down." "After a few adjustments the kids were able to get some stops to get us into half time with a 10 point lead." The Dragons were able to grow the lead in the second half and finish off with an easy victory. The Dragons had 8 in the scoring column. Ellie Hasz had 23, while Lily Wilson had 19. Hannah Lorsung had 7, Alaina Steele had 5, Ashley Faur and Meredith Kolling had 4 each, Sophie Lahti 3 and Jolie Wicktor 1. Wilson had 8 assists and 3 steals. Steele and Kolling each had 3 rebounds and 3 steals. Hasz had 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Lahti had 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Emily Carpenter had 2 rebounds.
Hasz went on to say, "The first playoff game is always interesting as it is like a new season. We were very proud of how the girls came out and played hard and found a way to advance,"
Up next, the Dragons would have to face a team that has had their number, and most of the rest of the section's number: St. Cloud Cathedral.
Pine City 44
St. Cloud Cathedral 42
Many people called this one of the biggest wins in the history of the Pine City girl's basketball team. The Dragons had a slow start and found themselves down 8-2 about 5 minutes into the contest. From there the first half belonged to the Dragons outscoring their opponents 28-16 the rest of the half. Ted Hasz said, "The girls played some of their best basketball of the season over that stretch. The difference was that we were playing championship level defense and rebounding the basketball very well." The Dragons were leading throughout much of the second half, but Cathedral fought their way back late. Sophie Lahti hit a big three pointer to give the Dragons a 4 point lead and from there were able to hang on for the big win. "We were able to fight off some adversity with some foul trouble and the pressures of tournament basketball. The kids stayed poised and made some big plays." Lily Wilson had a big steal and bucket when Cathedral was making a run. "It seemed like we were able to answer their runs just enough to keep the lead. Pine City had very balanced scoring with Ellie Hasz and Lily Wilson in double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively. Ashley Faur hit two big threes in the first half when the Dragons were down early to keep them in the game and finished the night with 9 points. Sophie Lahti had 5 points, Hannah Lorsung had 4, Alaina Steele had 3 and Chloe Alleman had 2. "I can't say enough about how the kids played on the defensive end of the floor. Hannah Lorsung and Chloe Alleman did a great job on Cathedrals 6'4 kid." Emily Carpenter and Meredith Kolling came in and gave us some good minutes."
The original plan was Pine City seeing Rush City in the semifinals, but an upset from Royalton changed that plan. A detour that would turn out to help the Dragons, because they wouldn't have to face a team that had beaten them twice already in the regular season and knocked them out of last year's section tournament.
Pine City 53
The Dragons came out of the gates determined and confident. Hasz explained, "We looked up at the scoreboard a few minutes in and we were ahead 17-4." The great start combined with championship level defense all game led to the big win. "Royalton has so many good 3 point shooters and with the 6'3 kid in the middle, the kids knew they had to play great defense all night." Pine City went to the locker room with a 30-18 half time lead. "The kids played a solid first half. We stressed at half time that we need to go out and win the second half as well. We need to stay aggressive especially on the defensive end." The Dragons did just that, building a lead as high as 20 points in the second half. Alaina Steele had a great game with 10 steals to go along with her 12 points. Lily Wilson played some of her best defense of the year and also had 13 points and 9 assists. Ellie Hasz had a big second half after a bit of foul trouble and finished with 20 points including 9 for 10 from the line. Sophie Lahti's length was a huge factor for the Dragons defensively throughout the game. Sophie also finished with 4 points. Ashley Faur hit a deep three in the first half and also had 5 rebounds and 3 assists. "I cannot say enough about the defense Chloe Alleman and Hannah Lorsung played against the 6'4 kid from Cathedral and the 6'3 kid from Royalton in back to back games. It allowed us to be able to get out on shooters and made a huge difference.
The win put the Dragons in the section championship for the first time since 1989. And another upset left Pine City matched up against the #4 seeded Albany Huskies instead of the #1 seed Sauk Centre Mainstreeters who had been section champs five years in a row.
Pine City 29
Albany came out with a great start and the Dragons could not get anything going in the section final held at St Cloud State University. Hasz said, "The kids were ready to play and we had a good game plan and great practices leading up to the game, we just didn't execute it the way we wanted too. It was kind of the perfect storm and we couldn't get out of it. We have to give Albany credit, they played great."
Albany's sophomore guard Paige Meyer proved why she is one of the best in the state scoring 27 points for the Huskies. Pine City could not find an answer for her defensively and could not get their own shots to fall. The Dragons finished 10-44 from the field including 4-23 from long range. Lily Wilson led the Dragons with 13 points and three steals. Ellie Hasz added six points and four rebounds. Hanna Lorsung had four points and grabbed six rebounds. Emily Carpenter scored four points . Meredith Kolling added two. Other like Alaina Steele, Ashley Faur, Sophie Lahti, Jolie Wicktor, and Chloe Alleman provided crucial minutes on defense trying to shut down the Huskies.
Hasz ended by saying, "It was a tremendous season. These kids wrote their own story and we all will have great memories that we carry with us. We have to say good bye to 5 great senior captains. Chloe Alleman, Emily Carpenter, Hannah Husom, Hannah Lorsung and Jolie Wicktor. The leadership these kids gave us is one of the major reasons for our great success this year. These young ladies have left their mark on the program and we will see the results of what they have done for the culture of our program for years to come."
Hasz added, "We would like to thank everyone in Pine City for their great support during our playoff run. From everyone involved with Pine City Schools, to community members, to the media, to community organizations, everyone who supported us, a heart felt thank you goes out to all of you!"
The Dragons will now celebrate an amazing season and look forward to next year where they will see a new core of seniors step up and try to get at least one game further.