High School Girls Basketball Focus: Here comes the finals – Post Bulletin

Just eight girls basketball teams are still kicking from Section One.

That can only mean one thing, that the state-tournament finals are next. They’ll happen on Thursday and Friday at Mayo Civic Arena.

Here’s a look at what went down in the section semifinals, our Top 5 Standouts, Power Rankings and a peek at what to expect in those section championship games.

John Marshall’s Lily Meister (52) is tripped as she goes up for a shot during a girls basketball game against Mayo on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester. John Marshall defeated Mayo 61-53 in overtime.

Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo

1. Lilly Meister, John Marshall

The standout 6-foot-2 center pretty much refused to let the Rockets lose on Saturday, March 5, in the Section 1AAAA semifinals. Meister scored 31 points (23 in the second half) and grabbed 17 rebounds in a 55-44 win over Lakeville South.

2. CJ Adamson, Lourdes

Adamson has been a Lourdes varsity player since the eighth grade. Now a senior, the smooth, fast and skilled senior is playing as well as any guard in the area. She directed the Eagles to a stunningly easy and efficient 62-34 win over Winona Cotter in the Section 1AA semifinals. Her 14 points don’t leap out, though she did shoot a high percentage. But it was her ability to flawlessly play the point that was so impressive, deftly working her way around all of Cotter’s full-court pressure, and so much more.

Lourdes vs.  Cotter/Hope Lutheran Section 1AA Semifinal Girls Bas

Lourdes’ Vivica Bretton (22) goes up for a shot over Cotter/Hope Lutheran’s Megan Morgan (11) during a Section 1AA girls basketball semifinal Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Lourdes beat Cotter/Hope Lutheran 62-35 to advance to the Section 1AA championship.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin file photo

3. Vivica Bretton, Lourdes

Bretton, a junior forward, drew one of the bigger compliments a player can receive. Winona Cotter’s heralded and longtime coach Pat Bowlin called her “the best defensive player in the section.” The fast and strong Bretton has also developed into a heck of an offensive weapon. She’s had 20 and 18 points in Lourdes’ last two playoff games, and ended the regular season with 19 points in an impressive win over Goodhue.

4. Kristen Watson, Hayfield

Hayfield is 30-0 and has reached the Section 1A championship game. But things didn’t always come easily for the Vikings in Saturday’s (March 5) section semifinal win over Lanesboro. It was sophomore guard Watson who ultimately pushed the Burros away, finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds in a 60-49 win.

dudycha.jpg

Austin’s Hope Dudycha is a heck of a passer. She’s also her school’s all-time leading scorer.

Andrew Link / Post Bulletin file photo

5. Hope Dudycha, Austin

The All-State honorable-mention choice from a year ago used Saturday’s (March 5) Section 1AAA semifinal win over Byron to become the Packers’ all-time leader scorer with 1,597 points. The slick and sweet-shooting Dudycha had 22 of those points against Byron. Dudycha splashed six 3-pointers. Not many guards around here are better than this senior.

(Editor’s note: These rankings are considered “pound-for-pound” rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in. Today, we rank the top southeastern Minnesota teams still remaining in the Section One playoffs.

1. Hayfield (30-0)

Still not a single loss for the Vikings, who are 30-0. Hayfield has depth and balance. But it also has a girl who has separated herself from the pack this season, Kristen Watson. Watson influences games in all ways, including coming off a 25-points, eight-rebounds performance in the Section 1A semifinals.

2. Lourdes (20-7)

It can easily be argued that no team is playing better than Lourdes right now. The Eagles are riding a 10-game winning that has seen them destroy the competition recently. Lourdes won 52-35 in the quarterfinals section, then 62-35 in the semifinals. Everything seems in place for Lourdes, with balanced scoring, awesome defense and an unmistakable connectedness.

3.John Marshall (21-7)

Talk about a streaking team, that’s the Rockets. JM has won 12 straight games and now finds itself in the section final for the first time since 2015, and hoping to get to state for the first time since 2009. The Rockets’ All-State center, Lilly Meister, is a couple of notches above everyone in Section 1AAAA and among the top handful of players in the state. But though she supplies the bulk of JM’s offense and is a fantastic rebounder, the Rockets are built around their defense, with so many quick-footed and quick-handed athletes, and likely the best individual defender in the section, Katie Hurt.

4. Austin (23-5)

The Packers are back to playing terrific basketball, and their best player, point guard Hope Dudycha, is back to playing like the star she is. Her school’s all-time leading scorer, Dudycha is coming off a 22-point game with six 3-pointers. On average, the Packers outscore the competition 66-47, and they’ve been ranked in the top 10 in the state all year.

5. Lake City (20-8)

The Tigers just know how to win, especially this time of year. the no. 5 seed in the Section 1AA tournament, Lake City sure hasn’t played like an underdog in the playoffs. Last year’s section champion is going to have a chance to get back to state again after having beaten top seed Goodhue in the section semifinals. Next up is a date with sizzling Lourdes.

6. Stewartville (19-8)

The Tigers are talented and deep, the latter finally showing itself after this team spent so much of the season injured and sick. Stewartville has looked healthy in the postseason, with wins of 60-34 and 59-54. Stewartville also has a singular star in guard Haylie Strum. The junior averages 17 points per game, shoots 47% from the field (40% on 3-pointers) and is a top defender and rebounder.

7. Grand Meadow (23-6)

The Superlarks have flown under the radar all season and did it again entering the postseason. Grand Meadow was the No. 3 seed in the Section 1A playoffs, behind No. 1 Hayfield and No. 2 Kingsland. But the 23-6 Superlarks keep getting things done, including beating Kingsland 46-37 in the section semifinals. Grand Meadow is a terrific defensive team, allowing just 36 ppg. And it is also beautifully balanced offensively, with Kendyl Queensland, River Landers, McKenna Hedrickson and Lauren Queensland all averaging in double figures.

Some quick thoughts regarding the Section One championship matchups coming Thursday and Friday at Mayo Civic Arena, in all four classes.

Section 1AAAA, No. 1 John Marshall (21-7) vs. no. 2 Lakeville North (19-9): It’s been a long time since JM has gotten to state — 2009. The Rockets won’t have an easy time ending that streak against perennial state power Lakeville North, a team they beat earlier this season, but one that’s been on a tear of late , winning 11 of its last 13 games. JM has two advantages — having the top player in Section 1AAAA, center Lilly Meister, and the best team defense in the section.

Section 1AAA, No. 1 Austin (23-5) vs. no. 3 Stewartville (19-8): Austin is the definite favorite, having not lost a Section 1AAA matchup all season (11-0) and having the experience of having made it to state last year. The Packers also have an elite guard in Hope Dudycha, plus plenty of help around her. Stewartville is definitely not a team to sleep on, however. The Tigers are athletic, play swarming and relentless defense, and have one of the best guards around, Haylie Strum.

Section 1AA, No. 2 Lourdes (20-7) vs. no. 5 Lake City (20-8): If the desire is to go by what happened in the team’s first meeting, the easy pick here would be Lake City. The Tigers devoured the Eagles 60-43 on Jan. 11. But the advice is not to do that. Better off examining what happened on Feb. 15, Lourdes beating Lake City 65-44, as well as what’s happened to Lourdes the last six weeks, the Eagles on a 10-game winning streak. Lake City has experience on its side, having advanced to the state tournament last year. The Tigers also have a pair of stars, guard Natalie Bremer and center Mya Shones. All-time Lake City leading scorer Bremer averages 24 points per game and the 6-foot-2 Shones is the school’s all-time leading rebounder.

Section 1A, No. 1 Hayfield (30-0) vs. no. 3 Grand Meadow (23-6): Hayfield is one of the few unbeaten teams in the entire state. The Vikings are 30-0 and with a dynamic sophomore combination in Kristen Watson and Natalie Beaver, plus plenty of good stuff around them. Still, not nearly ever win has been easy for the Vikings. Grand Meadow is balanced and coming off an impressive win over excellent team Kingsland. And the Superlarks play great defense, allowing just 36 ppg.

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