By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
Not many teams have fared well this season against Lake Conference opponents.
The St. Michael-Albertville girls’ basketball team dropped its second consecutive game and third overall this season to a Lake foe after Friday’s 54-51 home defeat to No. 8 ranked Wayzata.
The Knights are 8-0 against all other teams that don’t include the likes of Hopkins, Wayzata, No. 7 Edina, No. 4 Minnetonka and No. 1 Eden Prairie – all of the Lake Conference. The conference as a whole had an overall record as of Monday of 53-5.
“We have to learn as players and coaches how to finish these big games,” Hamre said. “What’s frustrating is we had the lead late and gave it up. It came down to one shot and Erin Autio had a good look at it and it just rimmed in and out.”
The Knights have lost to the Skippers, Edina and now the Trojans.
With easily the largest crowd of the season on hand against Wayzata, the Knights used the momentum to jump to a 24-20 halftime lead. Senior guard Natalie Van Wyhe scored six of her eight points in the opening half.
“It was youth night and the STMA side was probably 85% full,” Hamre said. “We had a great atmosphere.”
Unlike the loss to Edina, in which the Knights trailed by as many as 16 points before losing in the last seconds. The contest with Wayzata featured both teams exchanging blows.
Trailing 40-37, the Knights went on an 8-0 run to take a 45-40 lead with 2:21 left in the game. But Wayzata answered with a run of its own. The Trojans tied the game with 26 seconds left in regulation and took a 57-54 lead in the final seconds. STMA held Wayzata star Katie Schulz to just 11 points.
“Schulz is their top player and we kind of held her in check,” said Hamre. Schulz was also an all-state soccer player that was part of the Trojan state tournament team that knocked the STMA girls’ out of state contention last fall. “The unfortunate thing was they lost one of their starters to a nasty injury. But Reilly Johnson stepped up for them and scored 19 points.”
Despite the missed shot at the buzzer to tie, Autio had one of her best nights of the season. She finished with a double-double, picking up 10 rebounds to go with her game-high 15 points.
“She played well,” Hamre said. “I told her in practice that we needed more rebounding from her and that’s exactly what she did in that game.”
The Knights were in action Tuesday night at Brainerd (results unavailable). STMA will play its conference opener on Friday night at 7:15 p.m. at Rogers. The Knights last shot at a Lake Conference team will be Feb. 16 when they take on the No. 1 ranked Hopkins Royals.
“We’ve been so close against these Lake teams, it would be nice to get that monkey off our back and notch a win against one of them,” Hamre said. “The loss to Edina felt like a moral victory. But the girls felt like we had this game with Wayzata. We started throwing the ball around late and gave up the lead. We truly felt like we were upset in this loss.”