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Prep girls basketball: Grand Rapids rallies from 14 down to beat Superior in OT

The Spartans went on a 19-0 run after halftime, but couldn’t hang on for the win.

Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Grand Rapids guard Taryn Hamling (21) blocks a shot from Superior guard Savannah Leopold (20) on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids sophomore Jessika Lofstrom stepped to the foul line four times in the final minute of overtime against Superior Friday in Grand Rapids.

The sophomore sank the first three of the shots to secure a 58-55 win over the Spartans and secured the Lake Superior Conference title for the Thunderhawks.

“It was really stressful,” Lofstrom said. “But I knew I just had to shake it off, let me mind clear and just think about my team and how bad we wanted that win.”

Grand Rapids had rallied from 14 down with 11 minutes to play. The Thunderhawks had a 26-21 lead at halftime and Superior had struggled shooting 3-pointers again.

The Spartans struggled from long range Monday in a double-overtime loss to Esko, but they found their shot in the opening minutes of the second half. Savannah Leopold, Eva Peterson and Kloe Zentkowski combined for six 3-pointers that powered a 19-0 run and gave Superior a 40-26 lead with 11:30 to play.

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“I told them we’re just here to play,” Spartan coach Dave Kontny said. “Just relax, if you’re open, shoot the ball and keep attacking the basket — I was hoping we would get to the foul line a few more times, but we didn’t.”

Grand Rapids coach Kris Hamling said the Spartan run had her questioning who put the Thunderhawks’ schedule together. The team had already played Duluth East and Hermantown this week.

“It’s part me — I put the schedule together,” coach Hamling said. “But I just kept telling the girls to play our style. I knew they were tired, their shots weren’t falling, their legs were dead. I told them to keep taking short stops, keep attacking the basket and get some defensive stops.”

The Thunderhawks whittled away at the lead and finally went back in front on a Lofstrom bucket with less than a minute to play. Emma Raye hit a free throw with less than 10 seconds to play to send the game to overtime.

Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Superior guard Emma Raye (34) shoots the ball over Grand Rapids center Jessika Lofstrom (20) on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“They started hitting their 3s pretty well,” Lofstrom said. “We were running a zone and we just weren’t getting out fast enough, but then we started to pick it up after we realized they were hitting those shots.”

After coach Hamling called timeout with 11:30 to play in regulation, the Spartans only hit one more from long range — a Leopold make in the overtime period.

Lofstrom finished with a game-high 19 points and junior Taryn Hamling, the Thunderhawks’ leading scorer, finished with 18.

The Spartans did a good job of denying Hamling the ball in the second half and challenging any shots the junior took. The attention paid to Hamling created opportunities for Lofstrom and sophomore Braya LaPlant.

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“The thing is, when they’re doing that to Taryn, double-teaming Taryn or putting high pressure, there’s other girls that are open,” coach Hamling said. “We’ve got a ton of girls on our team that can make up those points that Taryn doesn’t get.”

While Kontny was disappointed with the loss, it was a close game against one of the best teams in the area.

“They’re a good team, we’re a good team and it was a good game,” Kontny said. “We obviously would like to share the conference championship with them but it didn’t work out that way. We’re on the edge of real good things — our program has come a long way in the last five years and I’m excited.”

Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Superior guard Kloe Zentkowski (13) leans into Grand Rapids center Jessika Lofstrom (20) while shooting the ball on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Leopold finished with 18 points to lead the Spartans and Kloe Zentkowski had 15.

Grand Rapids (21-2) will play at Bemidji at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Superior (22-4) will play at Minneapolis North at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Superior 21-30-4—55

Grand Rapids 26-25-7—58

Superior — Kloe Zentkowski 15, Emma Raye 13, Savannah Leopold 18, Eva Peterson 9. Totals 18 9-16 55.

3-point goals — Raye, Zentkowski 2, Leopold 5, Peterson 2.

Grand Rapids — Jessika Lofstrom 19 Taryn Hamling 18, Braya LaPlant 10, Kyra Griffin 4, Katie Jamtgaard 4, Amanda Scherping 3. Totals 17 15-21 58.

3-point goals — Hamling 4, LaPlant.

Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Grand Rapids guard Katie Jamtgaard (10) is fouled by Superior guard Kloe Zentkowski (13) on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Grand Rapids guard Taryn Hamling (21) focuses while moving the ball against Superior on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Grand Rapids center Jessika Lofstrom (20) stands by as Grand Rapids guard Kyra Giffen (13) strips the ball from Superior guard Kloe Zentkowski (13) on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Superior guard Emma Raye (34) pushes through guard Amanda Scherping (25) and center Jessika Lofstrom (20), both of Grand Rapids, on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Superior guard Savannah Leopold (20) moves the ball past Grand Rapids guard Katie Jamtgaard (10) on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Grand Rapids center Jessika Lofstrom (20) blocks a shot from Superior guard Emma Raye (34) on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Superior guard Emma Raye (34) grabs a rebound near Grand Rapids guard Katie Jamtgaard (10) on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Superior head coach Dave Kontny gives directions to his team against Grand Rapids on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

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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