By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
The days after Christmas brought the third annual Holiday Classic to St. Michael-Albertville High School. As host, the Knights had a strong showing against Elk River and Maple Grove of the Northwest Suburban Conference.
The Elks came in for a rematch of the previous year’s section final, which the Knights won, sending ER packing. The game began with Sydney Tracy sinking a pair of free throws, but the Elks took control with accuracy from behind the arc, eventually building a 15-6 lead.
The Knights went on a run later in the half which culminated with five points from Bobbi Brendefur, giving STMA the lead. The teams stuck with each other until STMA pulled ahead by six points at the half. Sophmore Kitri Zezza provided a spark with nine first half points, which led her team at halftime.
Bobbi Brendefur helped the Knights claim a 13 point lead with a three pointer, and it appeared the Knights would run away with it, but Elk River stormed back within three points. However, STMA would not be denied.
Some timely baskets built the lead back up for the Knights. Rae Johnson outmaneuvered the defense late in the game, and STMA built back a ten point lead to win 54-44.
Four Knights players scored in double figures. Zezza, who finished with 11 points, tied Brendefur and Erin Autio for the team lead. Johnson finished with 10.
Coach Hamre felt his bench players were the difference at the end of the first half in getting the game turned around.
“This was good for them to play a tough game and they all played with confidence and showed the improvement that we’re going to need.”
Hamre spotlighted Zezza as an extremely hard worker.
“There’s not a kid in our program that puts the time in the gym like this kid. You could come up here noon day or night, whatever, and Kitri’s in here getting better.”
Hamre also said that the key to (Zezza’s) success is confidence and he has faith in her to succeed if she has that confidence.
Knights use defense to topple Maple Grove
The Knights played Maple Grove in the second and final game of the tournament. Jordyn Walker led all scorers with 14 points and Erin Autio added 13, and Sydney Tracy had 10.
A strong defensive effort held the Crimson to just 18 points in the first half as the Knights held a nine point lead at halftime. The second half had a nearly identical score as the first half, with the Knights scoring 25 and the Crimson 18.
STMA won 52-36 behind a strong defensive effort. Coach Hamre said Autio had a double-double and the defense continued its improvement from the Elk River game.
The Knights are back in action tomorrow night at Wayzata.