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Prep girls basketball: Grand Rapids runs out of gas in state quarterfinal

St. Paul Como Park held the Thunderhawks to just over 30% shooting from the field in the loss.

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Como Park's Ronnie Porter (1) steals the ball during the second half of a Class AAA quarterfinal game against Grand Rapids in the state girls basketball tournament at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.
Hannah Hobus / Pioneer Press
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MINNEAPOLIS — Despite several attempts at a comeback, Grand Rapids couldn’t overcome a large second-half deficit and fell to St. Paul Como Park 76-57 Wednesday at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.

The Thunderhawks went without a field goal for more than four minutes of the first half and found themselves down 8-2. After a timeout by coach Kris Hamling, Grand Rapids started to find its footing.

Sophomore Jessika Lofstrom hit a 3-pointer that started an 8-0 run that briefly gave the Thunderhawks the lead.

Como Park’s Ronnie Porter responded with her own bucket from long range and put the Cougars back in front 11-10, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish again.

Despite trailing by as many as 20 points, the Thunderhawks found ways to get back into the game several times.

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Junior Taryn Hamling, who led the Thunderhawks with 20 points, said the points helped the team build confidence.

“Whenever they went on a run, we knew we had to pick up the defense and get a little more in their face,” she said. “We knew we had to stay on them and once we did make a couple shots, we just got way more confidence and started to let them fall.”

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Grand Rapids' Jessika Lofstrom fights for the ball with St. Paul Como Park's Kaylynn Asberry during Wednesday's Class AAA state quarterfinal at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.
Hannah Hobus / Pioneer Press

Midway through the second half, Grand Rapids found itself down 58-40, but again they started to claw their way back into contention.

Taryn Hamling hit a 3, sparking an 11-3 run that got the Thunderhawks within 10 points. A Como Park turnover gave Grand Rapids a chance to get the score back to single digits for the first time since late in the first half. The Thunderhawks gave it back to the Cougars, allowing coach Londa England to call timeout to settle her team down.

“I told them to stop depending on the 3,” England said. “We need to get to the bucket, we can finish at the rim, we need to move without the ball instead of standing around and watching.”

After the timeout with 6 minutes remaining, Como Park finished the game on a 15-5 run and Porter finished with a game-high 22 points.

Coach Hamling was disappointed with the loss, but not with the play of her team.

“We’ve only been in this position maybe a couple times this season and usually they’ve been able to fight their way out of it,” she said. “I’m very proud of the way that they stayed in and competed. Their spirits were up the whole time, never at one point of time were they down or upset because we were behind. I just told them to go out and play and do the best you can.”

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The Como Park defense was able to hold the Thunderhawks to just better than 30% shooting from the field and forced Taryn Hamling to work hard for her points. Taryn Hamling, normally a 47.5% 3-point shooter, was just 5-for-15 from long range against the Cougars.

“More of it was to get our little guards to really be pests,” England said. “We needed to be pesky with her and make sure we’re switching if we need to and getting over that screen. But her distance — she can shoot from anywhere. It was more about watching film and preparing defensively.”

While Grand Rapids’ run for a state title ended with the loss, the team has no seniors on the roster and coach Hamling thinks they can make another run to the state tournament in 2023. The Thunderhawks (25-4) have consolation games Thursday and potentially Friday and coach Hamling hopes to build on the remaining games and throughout the summer to make a third consecutive state tournament.

In 2016, the Thunderhawks made the tournament three consecutive years when Heaven Hamling — now a junior playing for North Dakota State University — led them to three straight state tournaments and a third-place finish in 2018.

“It’s kind of a cycle,” coach Hamling said. “Next year I expect to win the first game and then keep going. We’re not done, either. We have tomorrow and Friday, so we’re going to take it as far as we can down here."

Grand Rapids 23-34—57
St. Paul Como Park 37-39—76
Grand Rapids — Katelyn Jamtgaard 8, Kyra Giffen 4, Jessika Lofstrom 13, Taryn Hamling 20, Braya LaPlant 8, Hannah Hostetter 2, Samantha Brink 2. Totals 17 15-17 57.
3-point goals — Lofstrom, LaPlant 2, Hamling 5.
St. Paul Como Park — Ronnie Porter 22, Kaylnn Asberry 17, Cloey Dmtyuk 6, Jada James 14, Zhane Singer 4, Shania Nichols 11, Ellery Tennison 2. 32 6-13 76.
3-point goals — Porter 2, Asberry, Nichols 3.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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