BSM girls basketball brings A game to state tournament

Robby Sutherland

The BSM girls basketball team has capped off their 24-2 season with a state championship by knocking off the Hill-Murray Pioneers on March 20.

March 17, BSM vs. Willmar

Junior Sidney Pilarski waited for the officials’ signal before she led her team onto the court against the Willmar Wildcats at the Williams Arena. Coming off of a close win against Minneapolis North in the section championship, the girls were determined to not only make it to, but to win the finals. “Having the game against North just helped us realize that any team can beat us at any time,” said sophomore forward Olivia Antilla. “We just needed to keep our focus and play loose.”

The Haben Center is the home court for the girls, and stepping up to the unfamiliar Williams Arena court called for adjustments. “At first it was a little intimidating but once you got used to it, it was really fun because of the energy from all the fans,” said Pilarski.

Considered a ‘second half team’ by head coach Bob Lyons, the Red Knights rallied their way from a five point deficit at halftime to win by a score of 53-39. The sophomore trio led the team in scoring dropping a total of 36 of the teams 53 points — Antilla, with 14 points was assisted by her teammates Khadijah Shumpert and Josie Dillon, who each ended the game with 11 points.

With this come-from-behind win, the Red Knights proved to be a confident team who wanted to bring home the second state championship ever. “We wanted to keep playing hard together as a team and not overlook any team ahead of us,” said junior forward Sarah Kopp.

March 18, BSM vs. Sartell-St. Stephen

Senior guard Tish Alexander put on a clutch performance late in the first half secure yet another come-from-behind win in the semi-final game against Sartell-St. Stephen. Playing in the Target Center, the team was now in the limelight, including playing in the first televised game for some of these girls.

The pressure didn’t get to Alexander, as the senior captain dropped 18 points, 12 coming from beyond the arc, and compiled 5 steals and 5 assists. Alexander’s display of balanced basketball, however, may have overshadowed Antilla’s 18 points, which also contributed to BSM’s semi-final victory.

Their combined performance was contagious to the rest of the team, as the Red Knights went on to outscore the Sabres 69-47. “We hit a couple shots and started getting the feel for things and it all began to fall in place,” said junior forward Sarah Kopp. “We played unselfish basketball to help us come out with a win.”

March 20, BSM vs. Hill-Murray

The final minute of the championship game between BSM and Hill-Murray was the type of ending that sent fans’ blood pressure skyrocketing. With 50 seconds left in the game, Dillon drained a three-pointer when her team was down by four to cut the Pioneers lead to one. On the following inbound play, senior captain guard Tish Alexander stole the ball and passed to Dillon for a layup to put the Red Knights up by one.

Hill-Murray’s sophomore Tessa Chichy put up 24 points and was put to the test at the end of the game, when she was put to the line to shoot two free throws, with her team was down by one. With eyes throughout the Target Center focused on her, Chichy couldn’t come up with the free throws, which led to an intentional foul on Antilla to stop the clock. She extended the lead to three, which held up until the buzzer at the end to give the Red Knights a 41-38 victory.

The game was the team’s third game in a row in which they won in a come-from-behind fashion. “It felt amazing to be a part of a state championship team,” said Kopp. “Everyone dreams of being in the state tournament, but to win it is out of this world.”

Not only did Khadijah Shumpert, Olivia Antilla, and Tish Alexander win a state championship, but they were also nominated to be on the all-tournament team.

“Its such an incredible feeling. I can’t wait to see another state championship banner hanging in the Haben Center,” said Kopp.