Prep girls basketball: Top-seeded Pequot Lakes pushes out Duluth Marshall in 7AA semifinals

The Patriots advance to Friday's section final.

Pequot Lakes girls basketball against Duluth Marshall in the Section 7-2A Semifinals on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at Romano Gym at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Duluth Marshall's Anna Saari defends against Pequot Lakes' Maci Martini in the Section 7AA semifinals on Wednesday at Romano Gym at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service

DULUTH — Pequot Lakes is not a tall team, but Wednesday, they were giants in the paint.

The top-seeded Patriots used second- and sometimes third-chance opportunities to build a nine-point halftime lead and turn it into a 64-49 victory over the No. 4-seeded Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers in the Section 7AA semifinals at Romano Gym on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

After snaring the lead at 14:28, the Patriots used an early 11-0 run to create a 16-5 advantage. Maci Martini drained two of her three first-half 3-pointers during the run. Isabel Larson added four points during the run, but it was six second-chance opportunities that created the early advantage.

“Rebounding was big,” Pequot head coach Brian Lempola said. “Cleaning up and having them being one and down was good defensively. Then we hit shots early and that always energizes our team.”

Duluth Marshall answered with a 9-0 run to cut Pequot’s lead to 20-8. Juenemann tallied eight of her 20 points in the first half, including one of the three 3-pointers the Hilltoppers used to get close. Seventh-grader Chloe Johnson and Ava Meierotto sank the other two long-distance shots.


Pequot shot just 37% from the field in the first half, but its dominance on the boards had them attempting 30 field goals to Duluth’s 21. The Hilltoppers hit on just 33% from the field, but 36% from 3-point. Maci Martini and Larson closed out the scoring for Pequot in the first half with a basket from Lauren Schultz to give the Patriots a 29-20 halftime lead.

A girls basketball player goes for a basket splitting defenders
Pequot Lakes' Isabel Larson goes for the basket between Duluth Marshall defenders Mariah Lucero (22) and Chloe Johnson 5) in the Section 7AA semifinals on Wednesday at Romano Gym at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Turnovers. Unnecessary turnovers,” Hilltoppers head coach C.J. Osuchukwu said. “Our guards, we usually don’t turn the ball over that much. We usually average maybe 10 or 11 turnovers a game. Credit to Pequot. They had a game plan and they executed it and they won the game.

“Offensive rebounds they killed us. Any time you can get second chance and third chance shots, with any good team, they’re going to make you pay.”

Both Larson and Maci Martini finished with 11 points in the first half, but it was a Kelsi Martini 3-pointer in the second half that handed the Patriots their largest lead at 15 with 15:15 remaining in the game. Kelsi Martini was held to just two points in the first half. The career 1,000-point scorer finished with nine, but Larson scored a game-high 23 points and Maci Martini added 19 points.

“I think we pushed the ball pretty well up and down the floor,” Lempola said. “We missed a few. We left a few out there that’s for sure. Hopefully, we can clean those up and add them to the scoreboard Friday.”

A Johnson lay-in off a Pequot turnover put Duluth Marshall down 12 with about five minutes to play.

“I think we played a lot more free and a lot more like ourselves,” Osuchukwu said. “We’ve got young kids and this is a big atmosphere and it gets to their heads a little bit, but give credit to Pequot Lakes. It’s deja vu. When we first went to state and we had our upperclassmen they were just babies. Same thing now. They have the upperclassmen and they’ve been there before so credit to them.”

That would be as close as the score would get. The Patriots hit 13-of-17 free throws down the stretch to improve to 25-3 and return to the section final.


“When it gets to that point in the game, that’s our game,” Lempola said. “Free throws are a big part of the game and it’s a big part of our success. Those girls are so clutch late.”

Pequot Lakes 29-35—64

Duluth Marshall 20-29—49

Pequot Lakes — Isabel Larson 23, Kelsi Martini 9, Maci Martini 19, Lauren Schultz 7, Ella Kratocvil 6; FG: 21; FT: 17-23; 3-point goals: K. Martini 1, M. Martini 4.

Duluth Marshall — Ava Meierotto 3, Ada Skafte 10, Chloe Johnson 7, Anna Saari 4, Mariah Lucero 5, Regan Juenemann 20; FG: 18; FT: 2-2; 3-point goals: Meierotto 1, Skafte 2, Johnson 1, Lucero 1, Juenemann 6.

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