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Girls Basketball: BBE season ends in heartbreak

BBE's Kendra Schmitz looks to shoot during the second half of Friday's Section 5A final against Menahga at Fergus Falls High School. Curt Hogg / Tribune1 / 6
BBE's Macie Kirckof makes a post move and looks to shoot during Friday's Section 5A final against Menahga at Fergus Falls High School. Curt Hogg / Tribune2 / 6
BBEs Nicole Wesbur starts to shoot during Friday's Section 5A final against Menahga at Fergus Falls High School. Curt Hogg / Tribune3 / 6
BBE's Grace Illies is tripped by Menahga's Alyssa Peterson during Friday's Section 5A final at Fergus Falls High School. Curt Hogg / Tribune4 / 6
BBE's Jenna Dingmann drives to the basket during the first half of Friday's Section 5A final against Menahga at Fergus Falls High School. Curt Hogg / Tribune5 / 6
BBE's Morgan Gronli is fouled on a shot by Menahga's Alyssa Peterson during Friday's Section 5A final at Fergus Falls High School. Curt Hogg / Tribune6 / 6

FERGUS FALLS — The BBE girls basketball team, matched up with Menahga, the last undefeated team in Class A, didn't back down in a tightly contested Section 5A final in Fergus Falls Friday night.

Unlike most fairy tales, though, BBE's ended in heartbreak as the Braves fought back to sneak away with a 56-52 victory and clinch a spot in the Class A state tournament starting Wednesday.

Foul trouble helped contribute to a wild second half that featured 12 lead changes and five ties. Menahga struggled early to hit from the charity stripe but found their stroke in waning minutes, giving way to a 49-47 lead that held true until the end for the Braves.

The Jaguars, who entered the section championship with a 22-7 record, including a 65-39 loss to the Braves in the second game of the season, came out firing in the first half. Senior Morgan Gronli drilled her first two 3-point attempts, scoring nine of the team's first 11 points in an early 11-5 lead against the undefeated Braves.

"She stepped up big for us tonight," BBE head coach Kristina Anderson said about Gronli, who finished the night with 18 points. "She's put in so much hard work this year and what a night for her to shine."

Gronli was also tasked with guarding Menahga's leading scorer in Alyssa Peterson. Peterson averaged 20.5 points per game in the regular season but was held to nine points, five of which came off free throws in the closing minutes.

Foul trouble was a problem for both teams throughout much of the game, but especially so for the Jaguars. Gronli and junior forward Macie Kirckof each fouled out and Peterson was kept off the floor for large stretches for the Braves with four fouls of her own. BBE ended the game with 24 fouls and 17 against Menahga.

Menahga struggled to take advantage of the BBE fouls early, however. They went 4-for-10 from the line in the opening half, allowing the Jaguars to lead from tip to halftime, easing into a 23-17 score.

Missed layups and less-than-stellar free throw shooting hampered the Jaguars, as well, keeping the underdog from truly running away with the game early on.

Coming out of halftime, the Braves went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to one point and from that point forward, the largest lead by either team was three points until the final seconds.

Menahga's Annie Lake knocked down a free throw with 2:42 to play to tie the game at 47 and followed that up with a layup nearly a minute later to take the 49-47 lead, the twelfth lead change of the game. It proved to be the final one as well, when BBE's Macie Kirckof fouled out after an apparent charge that would have tied the game yet again with 1:24 to play. She finished the night with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Braves struggled early from the line but began to see the ball fall in the second half, going 14-for-24 in the second half. They finished the night shooting 18-for-34 from the free throw line, compared to BBE's 5-for-14 effort from the stripe.

Despite the frequent whistles, Anderson praised her team's defense.

"We thought we played great defense all night but we weren't always rewarded for it," Anderson said. "Morgan was amazing on defense, she shined for us on both sides of the ball."

Menahga now heads to the Class A state tournament as BBE falls just one game short for the second year in a row.

"It's probably cliché, but I'm so proud of these girls and all of the hard work they've put in this season, all of the time they've spent in the weight room, all of the time they've spent together," Anderson said. "When you get to this point of the season and you just don't want it to end, you want to keep playing, that makes a special group. There's no doubt this will sting for a bit. This will stick with us."

Menahga 56, BBE 52

Menahga (30-0) 17 39 — 56

BBE (22-8) 23 29 — 52

MENAHGA - Scoring: Alyssa Peterson 9, Megan Hendrickson 15, Tara Hendrickson 6, Cierra Ahlf 13, Leah Schwartz 9, Annie Lake 4 ... 3-point shots: T Hendrickson 1, Ahlf 2, Schwartz 1 ... Rebound leader: NA ... Assist leader: NA ... Steal leader: NA

BBE - Scoring: Grace Illies 5, Cassandra Tensen 3, Jenna Dingmann 1, Morgan Gronli 18, Macie Kirckof 13, Nicole Wesbur 8, Schmitz 4 ... 3-point shots: Gronli 3, Tensen 1 ... Rebound leader: Kirckof 11, Illies 9 ... Assist leader: Illies 8, Tensen 5 ... Steal leader: Gronli 1, Wesbur 1

Jake Schultz

Jake Schultz is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune, working his first job out of college. He graduated from St. John's University (CSB/SJU) in 2016 and is a baseball fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @StJake29. 

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