PREP GIRLS BASKETBALL / CLASS AA SEMIFINALS / CALEDONIA 56, PROCTOR 44
MINNEAPOLIS - Proctor girls basketball coach Matt Solberg brought his team down to the state basketball tournament on Wednesday morning.
Proctor first watched Hibbing play in the Class AAA quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion before going next door to Williams Arena. It wasn't just an opportunity for the Rails to buy state tournament sweatshirts and hats, but do get a feel for the "Barn," with its distinctive raised floor.
It didn't matter.
Senior guard Katie Tornstrom had 25 points and 11 rebounds as Caledonia used a big first half to down Proctor 56-44 in the Class AA quarterfinals Wednesday night at Williams Arena.
"We played like a team where it was the first time here," Solberg said. "You cannot replicate this environment, no matter what you try. It's daunting. We tried to release some of that anxiety in the morning, and had a crisp walkthrough this afternoon at Augsburg (University), but you can't replicate it."
Fourth-seeded Caledonia (25-4) advances to play top-seeded Roseau (29-2) in the Class AA semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Williams Arena. Fifth-seeded Proctor (24-7) plays unseeded Redwood Valley (19-9) in the consolation semifinals at 6 p.m. today at Concordia-St. Paul.
Morgan Nylund and Payton Rodberg had 11 points apiece to lead Proctor, while Sam Parendo added 10 points. Rodberg, just a freshman, was a force inside, adding a game-high 15 rebounds.
As Proctor's top defender, Nylund had the unenviable task of trying to guard Tornstrom, a Minnesota State-Moorhead recruit who combines the quickness and skills of a guard with the strength to muscle inside.
"She's really good," Nylund said. "She's got fast movements, and she's really smart in the way she plays off screens."
Proctor never led. The Rails fell behind 21-9 midway through the first half but never let the deficit balloon beyond 12 points. They even cut the gap to 34-30 with 12:38 remaining on a layup by Rodberg but could get no closer as Caledonia was 19-for-27 from the free-throw line compared to 12 of 24 for Proctor, which normally shoots about 70 percent from the line. Some of those misses was on the front ends of 1-on-1s, and some of them were flat-out ugly, airballs.
"We just didn't have our best game. Just look at our free throws," Nylund said. "I think we got into our own heads. It's just a different atmosphere here. It's all different. Everyone gave it their all, we just started a little slow."
Caledonia was playing in its first state tournament since 2011, so it was new for the Warriors, too, but they handled it better, and their zone defense and five-guard rotation frustrated the Rails. Proctor, which featured a lineup with no seniors, should be a favorite to be back here next year.
"That's an outstanding team," Caledonia coach Scott Sorenson said. "My goodness, they killed us inside, but when they did shoot from outside, we were just fortunate they missed most of those shots this game. To think they'll have all that back next year? Unreal."
Proctor is only making its third state tournament appearance and first since 2001.
With the likes of Gophers women's basketball coach Lindsay Whalen walking among fans in the crowd, selfies gone wild, it's hard to not get caught up in the lights.
"Our kids learned how to play in this type of environment," Solberg said. "Most of them weren't even born last time Proctor was in the state tournament, and some of them had never been to Williams Arena. It's a big gym, the lighting is different, it's hot on the floor, I was sweating, the lights are on you, but our girls battled. They didn't just roll over and die."
Proctor - Sam Pogatchnik 6, Liz Frase 4, Sam Parendo 10, Morgan Nylund 11, Katelyn Marunich 2, Payton Rodberg 11. Totals 14 12-24 44.
3-point goals - Pogatchnik 2, Parendo, Nylund.
Caledonia - Kaitlin Conniff 6, Ashley Schroeder 13, Katie Tornstrom 25, Heidi Bolduan 10, Gabby Hoscheit 2. Totals 15 19-27 56.
3-point goals - Schroeder 2, Tornstrom 5.