MINNEAPOLIS -- It was an historic day for the communities of Buffalo Lake and Hector, which sent its first team ever to a state basketball tournament.
"They'll always have that," said Mustangs head coach Josh Tjosaas. "When they go back to the school (after they graduate), they'll always be able to see what they've done."
The Mustangs fell to Goodhue Thursday afternoon in the girls Class A quarterfinals 54-46 to eliminate them from the tournament field.
"I wish they had a consolation round," said Tjosaas. "It would be more work, but it could be done."
As it is, the Mustangs finish their season 26-5.
Buffalo Lake-Hector played a great first half to take a 28-24 halftime lead. Every time the Wildcats rallied, the Mustangs responded with a mini rally of their own.
But in the second half, the Mustangs had no answer for the increased pressure applied by the Goodhue press that spurred a 12-4 run to start the last 18 minutes.
"They came out and extended the defense, got more aggressive and we didn't make them pay for it," observed Tjosaas. "We got tentative. Their big-game experience showed."
The Wildcats' 23-7 record coming in is deceptive. Six of those losses came before Christmas, all but one to Class AAA or AA teams, and they have been 22-1 since. They lost in the season finale to Rochester Lourdes, which is in the AA field here.
Unlike the Mustangs, Goodhue had state-tournament savvy with four starters back from a team that lost in the first round a year ago to Big Fork.
"They had a really good defense, and their press was tough," said BLH's Lynsey Runke. "We're a second-half team, but we didn't come out the way we usually do. We didn't execute."
Goodhue runs a patient offense and matched BLH in height. Typical of its balanced scoring, the five starters each scored from seven to 14 points, led by forward Grace Majerus with 14.
BLH got 13 points and 11 rebounds from Karlee Ilgen, followed by Maija Mikkola with 11 points and four assists and Bobbie Uecker with eight points and eight rebounds.
The Mustangs grabbed an 18-9 lead on jump shots by Emily Kubesh and Ilgen and a layup by Abby Zuhlsdorf following a defensive rebound by Nicole Horstman. The Wildcats mounted a comeback to take the lead at 24-23 on a basket by Majerus.
But Horstman drove for a layup, off a feed from Carly Kramer, and then made a free throw for a three-point play. Ilgen muscled under the iron for a basket with 12 seconds left in the half for the 28-24 lead.
A layup by Mikkola gave the Mustangs a 30-26 lead two minutes into the second half, but the Wildcats' defense forced six Mustang turnovers before BLH was able to score again; a free throw by Mikkola. By that time, Goodhue was up 36-30.
BLH was still in the game at 46-41 with 4:22 to play, but was unable to get closer.
"(Goodhue) moved the ball real well and they made good cuts," said Kubesh. "We just didn't play defense like we should have. It's a lot different down here, a big atmosphere, and they were used to it."
BLH shot 40 percent from the floor, owned a 41-31 edge in rebounds, but 25 turnovers -- to 10 by the Wildcats -- hurt badly.
But for Runke there's always next year. "This has been an experience I'll never forget," said the junior guard.
Goodhue 54, BLH 46
Goodhue (24-7) 24 30 -- 54
BL-Hector (26-5) 28 18 -- 46
GOODHUE - 19-55 FG (3-11 3-pt); 13-23 FT; 31 rebounds; 13 fouls ... Scoring: Courtney Hinsch 3-6 3-6 9, Grace Majerus 5-7 4-4 14, Laura Watson 4-16 2-3 10, Anne Lodermeier 3-6 0-0 8, Chanel Robert 3-7 0-0 7, Maggie Lexvold 0-2 1-2 1, Nikki Ryan 0-1 0-2 0, Erica Tipcke 1-10 3-6 5, Ann Dicke 0-0 0-0 0 ... 3-point shots: Hinsch 0-1, Lodermeier 2-5, Robert 1-1, Tipcke 0-4 ... Rebound leaders: Watson 7, Majerus 6 ... Assist leaders: Hinsch 6 ... Steal leaders: Hinsch 5, Watson 5, Lodermeier 3 ... Blocks: Robert 4
BUFFALO LAKE-HECTOR - 18-45 FG (1-5 3-pt); 9-16 FT; 41 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Lynsey Runke 1-3 0-0 2, Abby Zuhlsdorf 2-5 1-2 5, Karlee Ilgen 5-10 2-5 13, Bobbie Uecker 3-7 2-4 8, Maija Mikkola 4-8 3-4 11, Nicole Horstman 1-3 1-1 3, Bobbie Jo Deal 1-1 0-0 2, Carly Kramer 0-0 0-0 0, Jennessa Schaufler 0-0 0-0 0, Emily Kubesh 1-8 0-0 2 ... 3-point shots: Zuhlsdorf 0-1, Ilgen 1-2, Horstman 0-2 ... Rebound leaders: Ilgen 11, Uecker 8, Kubesh 8, Mikkola 7 ... Assist leaders: Mikkola 4 ... Steal leaders: Ilgen 2, Mikkola 2