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Girls basketball: DeLaSalle holds off Hibbing in Class AAA state quarterfinals

News Tribune file photo Hibbing senior guard Abbey McDonald, who is averaging nearly 20 points per game, makes a jump shot during a game against Esko in December.

MINNEAPOLIS — Hibbing coach Dave LaCoe called a timeout in the second half of the Bluejackets’ Class AAA girls basketball quarterfinal this morning against DeLaSalle, the frustration on his face evident, his hands out in exasperation.

This wasn’t the first time the Bluejackets had seen a zone defense, but they were playing like it was.

Sydney Runsewe scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the second half as top-seeded DeLaSalle held off Hibbing 61-53 at Maturi Pavilion, holding the Bluejackets to just 23 points in the second half while snapping their 18-game winning streak.

“DeLaSalle went into a zone, and our girls just sat back on our heels and didn’t attack it,” LaCoe said. “We needed to dribble in there and get some kick-out shots, but we weren’t able to do it. We were relaxing out there.”

DeLaSalle (22-5), competing in its 10th state tournament since 2006, plays fourth-seeded Holy Angels Academy (22-7) in a Class AAA semifinal at noon today next door at Williams Arena. Unseeded Hibbing (27-3), making its fifth state tournament appearance and first since 2007, plays fifth-seeded Fergus Falls (23-5) at 2 p.m. Thursday in the consolation semifinals across the river at Concordia-St. Paul.

“I’m proud of them,” LaCoe said. “The girls wanted this. They came down here with a goal, and that was to beat DeLaSalle. We knew we had a chance, and we came to play. We hadn’t lost since January, so that wasn’t on our minds at all.”

Hibbing led 30-28 at halftime and could have led by more. In what may have been the play of the game, Bluejackets forward Kourtney Manning lobbed an inbounds pass crosscourt with less than four seconds remaining. Like a good approach shot in golf, the ball soared over the hazard (in this case, the defender) before checking up for senior Abbey McDonald to retrieve it, but she couldn’t get her left-handed layup to drop just before the buzzer.

“It was really cool to be up by two at the half, but we didn’t keep it going,” said McDonald, who paced the Bluejackets with 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

DeLaSalle prides itself on using full-court pressure to create turnovers and easy baskets, but the Islanders backed off in the second half. It was about necessity as much as anything else as the Bluejackets often used it against them.

“That was our biggest fear — turnovers — but the girls did a great job taking care of the ball,” LaCoe said.

DeLaSalle had five players with two fouls apiece at the half and had only created four turnovers as McDonald spun the ball around like it was a hula hoop.

“That No. 44, really, she’s one of the top players in the state,” DeLaSalle coach Tanysha Scott said.

LaCoe’s other big fear was shooting, and that’s where the Bluejackets failed, shooting an anemic 31 percent, including 6-for-24 from McDonald. DeLaSalle, meanwhile, shot 45.5 percent, and Runsewe was 5-for-6 from 3-point range.

For Hibbing, Maturi Pavilion certainly wasn’t like shooting back home, with the facility’s bright gold splashed across the one wall serving as a backdrop.

“I don’t think it’s intimidating as much as different,” McDonald said. “Like the coaches said, just treat this like another game and don’t worry about everything around us. The shots weren’t falling, but our inside players worked the boards like crazy.”

Leading 56-49 with 1:24 to play, DeLaSalle seemingly had the game in hand, but the Islanders, who feature three freshman starters, only know one speed, and that’s full speed. No shot clock needed here, folks.

“When you have a team that is so young, we never know what we’re going to get,” Scott said after being asked if she told the Islanders to slow it down. “It’s not that they don’t listen. It’s just that sometimes they don’t hear me.”

A McDonald free throw and a 3-pointer by Eve Turner suddenly pulled the Bluejackets to within a basket at 56-53 with 52 seconds remaining but a pair of turnovers and missed shot sealed their fate. Turner finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, while senior center Lizzy Tuomi added nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocks before fouling out.

“I told them if we could withstand their pressure at the beginning, we’d make a game of it, and we did,” LaCoe said. “We had them on their heels in the first half, and a couple plays here and there and it could have been a different game, but we battled until the end. The girls played their hearts out.”

Hibbing 30-23—53

DeLaSalle 28-33—61

Hibbing — Lizzy Tuomi 9, McKenzie Maki 6, Haley Hawkinson 5, Eve Turner 11, Abbey McDonald 16, Jacie Clusiau 1, Kourtney Manning 5. Totals 18 15-20 53.

3-point goals — Turner, McDonald.

DeLaSalle — Savannah White 8, Mary Claire Francois 1, Kiani Lockett 10, Sydney Runsewe 18, Nurjei Weems 5, I’Tianna Salaam 3, Nora Francois 15, Mya Williams 1. Totals 20 14-27 61.

3-point goals — Lockett, Runsewe 5, N. Francois.