By Matthew Davis
Champlin Park simply had to look inside to rout Irondale 76-42 in their Class 4A Section 5 quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 6.
Rebels post players Hanna Crymble, 6-3, and Mariya Sampson, 6-2, dominated in the paint against the Knights on both sides of the floor. Crymble and Sampson finished with 13 and 12 points respectively.
“We had a focus to get the ball inside,” Rebels coach Jake Kuppe said.
Sampson, who was announced the school’s Athena Award winner earlier in the day, matched her season high of 12 points. Ten of those points alone came in the first half as the Rebels raced out to a 53-13 first halftime lead.
The Athena Award goes to the school’s top senior. Sampson has been a stellar volleyball and basketball player over the years for the Rebels. She also golfs for the Rebels in the spring.
She will play volleyball next year for the seven-time defending Division II champion Concordia University Golden Bears.
“It’s really exciting,” Sampson said.
Sampson’s senior year with the Rebels volleyball had been cut short with a meniscus tear. She missed the start of the basketball season.
“At the beginning of the season it kind of hurt having her gone, but when she came back it just made our team stronger,” Rebels senior guard Alexis Alexander said.
Sampson managed to return from the injury in January to join the Rebels girls basketball team. She had her best scoring games of the season early on in her return with 11 points against Coon Rapids on Feb. 7 and 12 points against Blaine on Feb. 11.
“I kind of still been working from it, but I think I’ve gotten strong since then,” Sampson said.
As her legs improved, she has become a more dangerous force inside, which the Rebels needed in addition to Crymble. It showed in the way the Rebels dominated against the Knights.
“She had a couple nice explosion moves today,” Kuppe said.
Following a three-pointer by the Knights to start the game, the Rebels dominated the rest of the way. The Rebels’ style took the Knights completely out of what they wanted to do.
“We always focus on getting one stop at a time and getting a great shot,” Kuppe said. “We did it. That’s probably one our best defensive halves where we’re fixing problems on the fly.”
Alexander finished with 13 points. Anna Garrison scored 9 points for the Rebels, and Kelli Heytens, Taylor Severn and Sydney Hilley each chipped in six points.
“Our shots were falling really well today, and we were just trying to rotate the ball and get everybody in the game,” Alexander said.
With the win, the Rebels moved on to play Maple Grove on Tuesday at Anoka in the semifinals. A semifinal for the Rebels will set up a championship game match up with either Centennial or Osseo on Friday night at 8 p.m. at Anoka.
“We’re going to go as far as our seniors are going,” Kuppe said.
Contact Matthew Davis at email@example.com