By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
If suspense and drama is your thing, than you were probably disappointed with last week’s results posted by the St. Michael-Albertville girls’ basketball team.
With three more wins, STMA improved its overall record to 13-3. It started with an 81-47 victory over Princeton. That was followed by a 69-27 win over Buffalo and a lopsided 81-15 blowout at Duluth East.
Senior guard Nicole Westrum scored a season-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a home win Jan. 15 over Princeton. Freshman Sydney Tracy scored 14 points; senior Makenzie Bebo added 11 and junior Erin Autio also finished in double figures with 10.
Two nights later, the suspense again was quickly erased as STMA jumped to an early 10-2 lead and cruised to a 69-27 home win over Buffalo. It was the first meeting between the teams since the Knights knocked off the Bison 58-55 in overtime in last year’s Section 8AAAA championship game.
Buffalo has only one regular back from last year’s 24-5 squad that won the Mississippi 8 Conference.
“The last two years they lost probably a total of 20 seniors,” said STMA head coach Kent Hamre. “They are in a bit of a rebuilding mode. But they are really well coached and they should be fine by the end of the season.”
Autio scored the game’s first eight points and the Knights had built a double-figure lead just five minutes into the contest.
“Autio can stretch the floor with the best of them,” Hamre said. “When she gets in a groove, she’s tough to stop.”
After a hot start, Autio was lifted midway through the first half and sophomore Bobbi Brendefur stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. Brendefur forced four steals and finished with 15 points.
“You can’t play the entire game,” said Autio, who finished with 19 points. “You need to sit at some point to take a breather and other girls have stepped in and done the job.”
Senior guard Natalie Van Wyhe finished with 10 points, four rebounds and five steals. The Knights relentless defense forced 28 Buffalo turnovers. Buffalo’s lone returning player from a year ago, Emily Spier, was held to five points, but collected 10 rebounds.
“Buffalo had been playing well of late,” Hamre said. “We wanted to keep up our defensive intensity for 36 minutes. We’ve had some lapses before and this game we didn’t have that lapse and I think we made them feel uncomfortable out there.”
The intensity continued into a road game Jan. 19 at Duluth East. The Knights dominated the Greyhounds in all phases. STMA had a record-setting second half in which they didn’t allow one field goal and only allowed two points in an 81-15 thumping.
Seven of Duluth East’s 15 points came from the free-throw line.
“It wasn’t like they were a bad team,” Hamre said. “We were just hitting on all cylinders. We’re playing some of our best basketball right now and I think we can even step it up another level.”
Twelve different Knights found the score sheet. Westrum tied the Greyhounds entire team, scoring 15 points. Van Wyhe had 13 and Brendefur had 10. Autio nearly had a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
“It has been a lot of big margin wins lately,” Autio said. “It would have been nice to win one of those close games against the Lake teams. But the season has been going pretty good so far.”
The Knights were in action Tuesday night against Monticello. Friday night they are at Big Lake with tip-off at 7:15 p.m.