Victory over South tightens SSC basketball race
Expectations have skyrocketed for the Rosemount women’s basketball team this year, which tends to happen when you come within seconds of winning a state championship the previous season.
Things didn’t start out the way the Irish had hoped when they had won just one of their first five games, but things have been easing since. They have now earned five straight wins, including Tuesday’s 58-40 home victory over South Suburban Conference co-leader Lakeville South.
Rosemount, the 2021 Class 4A runner-up, has played their first four games against teams currently in the top 10 of the state rankings, including undefeated Hopkins and Minnetonka. Some losses occurred on last second baskets.
“Minnetonka was a one-point game with a minute and a half to go,” said coach Chris Orr. “St. Michael (-Albertville), we had a 15 point lead with 15 minutes left and they hit a shot with 10 seconds left to beat us. Prior Lake, we lost on a buzzer-beater.
“It’s not like we’re playing badly. We were playing well and competing, but we weren’t really executing. Many of these girls performed last year, but in different roles. They proved to each other that we can play with these teams and getting Stillwater (68-65 on December 9th) to win was also important because it proved we can beat these teams.
Since losing to Prior Lake 48-47 on Dec. 14, Rosemount has beaten Park of Cottage Grove in a non-conference game, handily won two games at the Rotary Holiday Classic in Rochester and defeated two of the three co-leaders of the southern suburbs. (Shakopee and Lakeville South) decisively.
On Tuesday, Rosemount kept Lakeville Sud at 14 points in the first half by building a 12-point lead. The lead increased in the second half before the Irish eliminated their holders.
Lakeville South, who entered the game undefeated in conference, remained tied for first despite the loss. Rosemount’s victory and Shakopee’s 68-43 win over Prior Lake left South, Shakopee and Prior Lake tied for first in the league at 3-1. Rosemount and Lakeville North are 2-1 in a conference game.
“The first half we missed lay-ups and free throws, but we held on and executed,” said Orr. “The second half we really performed.
“I love watching them. They are fun to train because they play so well together. They share basketball. They don’t care who gets the points, although some of them should probably shoot some more.
The Irish split the score against Lakeville South, with six players scoring at least six points and four hitting doubles. Guards Nicole O’Neil and Ava Thompson scored 12 each, and forward Tayah Leenderts and guard Alexa Ratzlaff scored 10 each. Ratzlaff, O’Neil and Leenderts all average at least 12 points per game.
Several Rosemount players, including O’Neil, Thompson and Ratzlaff, have three-point range and permission to shoot. “Tayah helps a lot with that,” Orr said. “Most teams put a little emphasis on trying to take him and that opens up the outside. If it’s a good shot for us, they should be able to shoot. We cannot hesitate.
Lakeville South (4-6 overall) beat Apple Valley, Eagan and Lakeville North in their first three conference games, getting consistent play and double-digit scoring averages from senior guard Ally Schultz and second-year guard Finley Ohnstad. Ohnstad led South with 11 points against Rosemount, but the Cougars couldn’t make up for their slow offensive start.
“We did a great job of communicating, being in the right position and trusting each other,” Orr said. “And we did a really good job of rebounding. “
For most of the history of women’s basketball in the South Suburban Conference, the top teams have been Eastview, Lakeville North and, most recently, Farmington. There could be an opportunity for someone else to win the conference title this year, and the Irish and Cougars certainly know it.
“One thing that has escaped us is (the conference championship),” Orr said. “Our players want that. They know it’s not the end, but it’s something that’s on the whiteboard and a goal for our team.
Players from both teams wore “Hoops for Hearts” t-shirts as part of a fundraiser for the American Heart Association that took place during Tuesday’s game. This was the fourth year of the fundraiser, which began after Orr survived cardiac arrest while working at school on March 3, 2017. A colleague, Tracy Cassano, began CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) was used to shock her heart. in rhythm. Orr had a stent placed in an artery he described as “99% blocked”. He missed a game, but only one.
Since it began, the event has raised funds for AEDs at the Irish Sports Dome and Hope Fieldhouse, and is currently raising funds to set up another at Rosemount High School. Volunteers from the Cardiac Arrest Survivors Network and Rosemount High School Health Career Classes performed CPR demonstrations during Tuesday’s game.
If you would like to donate, contact Orr at Chris.Orr@district196.org or contact the Rosemount Girls Basketball Booster Club via Venmo at @IrishGBB and put “Hoops for Hearts” in the memo line.