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Prep girls basketball: MIB staves off Bigfork to win eighth straight 7A title

Mountain Iron-Buhl's Madisen Overbye (left) celebrates with a teammate in the final minute of the Section 7A championship game Thursday at Romano Gym. MIB defeated Bigfork 54-46 to advance to the Class A state tournament. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)1 / 2
Mountain Iron-Buhl's Macy Savela (left) shoots the ball against Bigfork's Kia Tower during the Section 7A championship game Thursday at Romano Gym. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)2 / 2

Mountain Iron-Buhl senior Mary Burke said she didn't feel helpless while watching nearly the last nine minutes of the first half from the bench on Thursday during the Section 7A girls basketball championship.

"I just yelled and screamed and cheered as much as I possibly could," Burke said.

When Burke was done playing cheerleader, she returned just in time to help MIB stave off Bigfork 54-46 for the Rangers' eighth straight section title before about 1,000 at Romano Gym. Junior guard Madisen Overbye had 15 points, and Burke, who is listed as a center but plays all over the court, had 11 of her 13 points in the second half to lead MIB (28-2), which will open play in the Class A state quarterfinals on March 15 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis against an opponent to be named once seeding is completed. Expect the Rangers to be a top seed.

"This never gets old," said Burke, who will be playing in her sixth straight state basketball tournament, having already made the varsity in seventh grade. "This feeling is amazing."

Burke said it wasn't her best game, but it's hard to score when you're not on the court. In a sign of things to come, Burke picked up an offensive foul for pushing off while going hard to the hoop in the opening seconds of the game. Burke, the Northland's leading scorer at about 26 points per game, picked up her third foul while playing defense out past the 3-point line with 8:46 left in the first half and was pulled, never to see the court again until the second half.

Bigfork (25-4), which trailed 16-4 to start the game, fought back with its press and only trailed 27-24 at the half. MIB, which downed Bigfork 59-40 and 72-37 during the regular season, was reeling.

"We were a little tired, for whatever reason, and when you're not playing with full energy, against a team as talented as Bigfork, the pressure starts to get to you," MIB coach Jeff Buffetta said. "It got to us, but we never folded. That's the biggest thing I'll take from this game. We didn't fold when it was tough, and this was the perfect test for us to get us ready for next week."

Burke's 13 points were her second lowest output of the season.

Macy Savela added 11 points for MIB, while junior forward Brianna Haley had a game-high 17 points off the bench for Bigfork.

Haley, who came in averaging about eight points per game, looked like a star. She was efficient and fortunate, banking in one 3-pointer. Midway through the second half, she had a big block at one end of the court, and then came back to the other end and drained a drop-step 3-pointer to tie the game for the first time since the start, at 41-41. But MIB quickly answered with Patia Hayes' long jumper at the other end. Bigfork made another run, only for Burke to drain a 3 from the corner, and that was it.

"We knew we could play with them, because there is a mental part to it when you're playing Mountain Iron-Buhl," Bigfork coach Greg Powell said. "I think we finally got over that hurdle, but we were just a play or two away. They answered every one of our runs, but that's what good teams do."

So the section streak goes on for the Rangers.

"It's not easy to keep this streak going. Every year is a different challenge," Buffetta said. "It's fun. Like I tell the kids, they earned the pressure, and if you've earned the pressure, you should enjoy it. I enjoyed it for a couple minutes tonight, but my hair is getting gray."

Bigfork 24-22—46

Mountain Iron-Buhl 27-27—54

Bigfork — Kia Tower 8, Desiree Kobal 2, Lexi Becker 3, Emma Rauzi 7, Haley Grover 9, Brianna Haley 17. Totals 16 8-13 46.

3-point goals — Tower, Becker, Rauzi, Haley 3.

Mountain Iron-Buhl — Mary Burke 13, Macy Savela 11, Patia Hayes 6, Allie Negen 7, Madisen Overbye 15, Matti Bennett 2. Totals 18 11-20 54.

3-point goals — Burke, Savela 2, Negen, Overbye 3.

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