by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Osseo and Maple Grove battled back and both the whole game but the Orioles made key plays and free throws down the stretch to pull out a 58-57 win at Maple Grove Dec. 17.
Played in front of a big crowd as the front end of fan Osseo-Maple Grove basketball doubleheader, the Orioles built an early lead but Maple Grove rallied to tie the score 29-29 at halftime. The teams continued to engage in a tight contest in the second half. The winning point came when Osseo senior point guard Madi Malone made a free throw with 35.6 seconds left in the game.
“It was a barn-burner,” Osseo coach John Rieser said. “Maple Grove is a well-coached team and they play hard. We started off the game well, getting good looks and finishing. Our defense was really solid for the first few minutes of the game. But you always know a team like MG is going to make a run at you. That game could have gone either way and we were somewhat lucky to have the ball bounce our way in the last few seconds.”
“The Osseo game was a fun one. It was a great environment for high school basketball,” Crimson coach Mark Cook said. “They made some plays down the stretch and we came up a little short. They are a good team. I think we are a good team. That night, they were just a little bit better than we were. I think we can take a lot away from that game.”
Osseo had three players in double figures, Sophomore Kiara Russell had 17 points, nine from three-pointers. Senior Ayo Porte had 16 points and freshman Azaria Reed had 10 points.
Kaela Jones led Maple Grove with 18 points, Julie Hagert had 12 and Kenzie Barta and Mary Eckberg each added nine.
Both teams are similar in that they are facing rebuilding after losing many top seniors. Both coaches are pleased with how their team is progressing.
“I am very happy with the way the kids are playing. They are working hard and getting better each day,” Cook said. “We are coming together as a team and everyone is starting to figure out what their role is. Kaela Jones is off to a tremendous start leading us in both points and rebounds. Haylee Barker has proven to be very disruptive to opposing point guards. Julie Hagert is regularly one of the most athletic kids on the floor. Kenzie Barta is getting more and more comfortable on the floor all the time and really starting to assert herself as a dominate player. Cora Bourbonais is so consistent on both ends of the floor and is like having a coach on the floor.”
The Crimson blew out Coon Rapids 62-34 Dec. 19. Jones scored 14 points and Hagert 12 to lead the way. The 4-2 Crimson host Elk River Friday, Jan. 3.
Osseo improved to 5-1 when it routed Armstrong 69-31 Dec. 19. Reed paced the Orioles with 19 points, Porte had 18 and Etheridge 10.
“The team is playing well and some of the younger players are starting to get a feel for the pace of the game at the varsity level and are becoming more consistent,” Rieser said. “Ayo Porte has been consistently playing at a high level all season – on both ends of the court. Senior captain Madi Malone is giving us what we had hoped for from her – consistent offense, defense and vocal leadership. Newcomer Kiara Russell is really starting to get comfortable in this setting and her production on both ends of the floor is really helping us. Sophomore Ari Jones is helping on defense and running the point position – she still is a fine outside shooter. Freshman Azaria Reed has been very productive as well. She works hard and keeps getting better, playing with more confidence each game. Juniors Courtney Calkins, Haley Swanson and Catera Etheridge have also been solid contributor thus far.”
Osseo next plays at Hopkins Thursday, Dec. 26.