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Lady Wildcats denied final

Justine Dammermann, right, of New London-Spicer drives to the basket and draws a foul against Katie Pettit of Howard Lake-Waverly/Winsted Friday at Target Center. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)1 / 3
Taylor Thompsen, left, of New London-Spicer works the baseline for a shot while being guarded by Katie Pettit, center, and Kate Klinkner of Howard Lake-Waverly/Winsted in the first half Friday at Target Center. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)2 / 3
Cassie Ziemer, right, of New London-Spicer shoots over Howard Lake-Waverly/Winsted's Heather Lehner in the first half Friday at Target Center in Minneapolis. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)3 / 3

MINNEAPOLIS -- Cold to start, cold to end doomed New London-Spicer Friday night in the Class AA girls state semifinals at Target Center.

Howard Lake-Waverly/Winsted jumped on the Wildcats early for a 10-2 lead and later pulled the plug on the NLS offense during the game's last 12 minutes.

It added up to a runaway 46-31 victory for the Lakers and an appearance in the state championship game at 2 p.m. today.

After Justine Dammermann's steal and layup with just under 12 minutes left in the second half to tie the game 29-29, the NLS offense shot blanks. The Wildcats didn't score again until a layup by substitute Anna Lindquist with five seconds left.

It was a stunning contrast to Wednesday's quarterfinal game when the Wildcats made a run in the last five minutes to overtake and defeat East Grand Forks, 57-53, at Williams Arena.

"(Howard Lake-Waverly) just outplayed us; give them the credit," commented NLS head coach Mike Dreier. "We had several good looks, but didn't put it in, rebounds rolled off our fingers and free throws didn't fall."

Everything that could go wrong did for the Wildcats.

"They've got some big kids and a great point guard (Katie Pettit) who can control the flow," said Dreier. "They hurt us early. I think they scored on three of their first four possessions."

The Lakers led 10-2 with just 2:10 elapsed. But the scrappy Wildcats didn't let it get any worse and got within 27-20 by halftime on a layup by Michele Hanson.

Out of the locker room, the Wildcats made their first and only run of the game. Center Brianna Jacobson scored consecutive baskets and Taylor Thompsen, Karli Wendlandt and Abbey Knisely each made a free throw to pull within two, 29-27.

That's when Dammermann's theft and layup tied it up 29-29 at 11:53.

The Lakers scored the next 17 points.

Jason Kuehn, the Lakers' young head coach in his fourth season at the helm, has now won three straight head-to-head matches with NLS going back to Section 5AA playoff wins in 2006 and 2007 before NLS was shifted to 6AA.

"I'm not saying anything about that," said Kuehn. "What's Mike got, 698 victories? But we've got talent and have worked hard to get where we are."

Kuehn said he felt his team matched up well with the Wildcats.

"We wanted to contest every shot and get rebounds," he said. "It helped that we hit some shots early. That loosened things up inside for us."

Christina Gruenhagen, the Lakers' 6-2 center, was the only player in double figures for either team with 10 points. Wendlandt finished with eight points. NLS sophomore Abbey Knisely, also a 6-2 center, had seven points, plus seven rebounds. And Jacobson added six points and six rebounds.

The Wildcats were 1-for-5 outside the arc and 6-of-14 at the free-throw line.

New London-Spicer (30-2) was going for an eighth trip to the championship game in 14 appearances, the first in 1985.

The Lakers (29-3) will face Caledonia (30-0), the state's last undefeated team. Howard Lake-Waverly's only other trip to state was last year when it lost in the first round to Crookston.

NLS will meet a Jordan team that was ranked No. 1 all year and whose only losses in the regular season were to the finalists in Class AAAA today, Centennial of Circle Pines and Minneapolis South. Jordan's is led by 2,000-point scorers Brittany Chambers and Leah Dietal.

The third-place game is played at Concordia University in St. Paul with a noon tipoff.

HLWW 46, NL-Spicer 31

NLS (30-2) 20 11 -- 31

HLWW (29-3) 27 19 -- 46

NEW LONDON-SPICER - 12-34 FG (1-5 3-pt); 6-14 FT; 27 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Kelsey Cors 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor Thompsen 0-3 1-2 1, Justine Dammermann 2-2 0-0 5, Karli Wendlandt 2-5 4-6 8, Brianna Jacobson 3-8 0-2 6, Amanda Radel 0-0 0-0 0, Brogen Lothert 0-0 0-0 0, Maddy Cordes 0-0 0-0 0, Cassie Ziemer 1-5 0-0 2, Marin Setterberg 0-0 0-0 0, Michele Hanson 1-3 0-0 2, Lauren Bennewitz 0-0 0-0 0, Allison Ruter 0-0 0-2 0, Anna Lindquist 1-1 0-0 2, Abbey Knisely 2-6 1-2 5 ... 3-point shots: Dammermann 1-1, Cors 0-1, Ziemer 0-3 ... Rebound leaders: Knisely 7, Jacobson 6 ... Assist leaders: Ziemer 3 ... Steal leaders: none

HOWARD LAKE-WAVERLY-WINSTED - 14-35 FG (4-10 3-pt); 14-21 FT; 23 rebounds; 13 fouls ... Scoring: Taylor Williams 1-4 0-0 3, Clara Chalupsky 2-2 0-0 6, Katie Pettit 1-6 7-9, 9, Ellie Wessling 3-7 1-4 7, Christina Gruenhagen 3-8 4-6 10, Heather Lehner 2-3 2-2 7, Kayla Gross 0-1 0-0 0, Alesha Remer 0-0 0-0 0, Kelsey Clark 0-0 0-0 0, Katelyn Klinkner 1-3 0-0 2, Sam Hackbarth 1-1 0-0 2 ... 3-point shots: Chalupsky 2-2, Lehner 1-1, Williams 1-4, Pettit 0-3 ... Rebound leaders: Williams 5, Wessling 5, Gruehnhagen 5 ... Assist leaders: none ... Steal leaders: Wessling 2