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Hancock's title hopes dashed

MINNEAPOLIS -- Maranatha Christian Academy spoiled Hancock's first state title hopes since 1997, outlasting the Owls 60-57 in double overtime in the Class A state girls basketball semifinals Friday at Target Center.

Hancock (27-3) will play Mountain Iron-Buhl for third place at 10 a.m. today at Concordia College in St. Paul. Maranatha will take on Nicollet in the championship at noon at Target Center.

Maranatha Christian Academy's nine losses are deceiving since only two of them came against a Class A school. Five were against Class AAAA schools, including Hopkins, which is in the state championship. Two other losses were against AA schools.

"I think that was a big advantage for us," said Maranatha Academy coach Jim Hammond. "We went against some very good teams this season. And we knew Hancock liked to press all the time, but their press is nothing like Hopkins' press."

In the second overtime, neither team scored until Maranatha Academy 6-foot-2 sophomore Onye Osemenam powered inside for a basket with 2:56 remaining to give the Mustangs a 57-55 lead.

Both teams played down the stretch without a key player. Maranatha's top scorer, Alexis Long, fouled out late in regulation and Hancock's second-leading scorer, Illissa Koehl, was whistled for her fifth foul with 19 seconds left in the first overtime.

Hancock then got a free throw from Courtney Greiner to whittle the deficit to 57-56 with 2:34 to go. Maranatha turned the ball over and Greiner was fouled again after grabbing an offensive rebound. Again, she made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 2:22.

Osemenam, who was a force inside with seven blocks, made 1-of-2 free throws to give Maranatha the lead for good with 1:48 left.

Hancock repeatedly tried to get the ball inside to Kendra Schmidgall, the team's leading scorer, but almost every time the 6-2 junior was denied by Osemenam.

Josie Taggatz-Ott put the finishing touches on the win with a pair of free throws with 29.4 seconds left in the game.

Hancock, normally a stellar free-throw shooting team, made only 2-of-5 shots from the charity stripe in the second overtime and 15-of-25 for the game.

The Owls, who shot 73 percent from the free-throw line during the season, generally use only six or seven players and press the entire game. Playing full throttle in back-to-back days would fatigue most teams, but Hancock coach Jodi Holleman insisted fatigue was not a factor. Greiner, Schmidgall and Aria Walstad played all 44 minutes and Shae Brown logged 41 minutes.

"Absolutely not," said Holleman, when pressed about her team maybe being tired. "We're in good condition. The problem was we were so physically beat up after the Goodhue game that the girls could hardly move (Thursday) night. That was one of the most physical games we've played. The girls left it all on the court in that game."

Koehl led Hancock with 18 points and also had seven rebounds. Greiner finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds and Schmidgall notched 15 points and eight rebounds.

Maranatha set the tone early in the game as Taggatz-Ott hit a pair of early three-pointers and the Mustangs eventually built an 11-point advantage at 30-19 when Makenzie Lee drained a three-pointer. Schmidgall banked in a shot at the buzzer to leave the Owls trailing 30-21 at halftime.

But being behind is nothing new for the Owls. In the quarterfinals against Goodhue, they trailed by 10 points and went on a 17-2 run to start the second half before winning 58-54. And an 8-4 run to start the second half against Marantha got them right back in the game.

Koehl took a seat on the bench with 11:33 left after her fourth foul. But Walstad and Brown each drained a three-pointer in her absence just over a minute apart to get Hancock within 41-39. It was the first basket of the game for each player and they couldn't have come at a better time.

Eventually, the Mustangs struggled against the press, especially when Long, who had a strong first half on both sides of the ball, got into foul trouble and was forced to the bench with her fourth foul with 6:10 left in regulation. The Owls took advantage with Koehl returning to the floor. Koehl hit four straight free throws to tie the game 46-46, then added a driving layup to give Hancock the lead with 49 seconds left. Osemenam then scored inside with eight seconds remaining to knot the game. Hancock then turned the ball over on its final possession of regulation.

Just as she started the game with a three-pointer, Taggatz-Ott started the overtime with a trey. But Koehl answered right back with a trey of her own. Taggatz-Ott's driving layup gave Maranatha a 55-53 lead with 1:01 showing. Schmidgall's two free throws at :47 again tied the game and the teams would go to another overtime.

At one point between the two overtimes, Hancock missed six straight free throws.

Hancock last won a state title in 1997 and finished second in 2007. Now the Owls have a chance to add a third-place trophy today.

"We want to end the season on a good note," Holleman said. "The girls will have no problem getting up for this game after a disappointing loss."

Maranatha Academy 60, Hancock 57

Hancock (27-3).......21 27 7 2 -- 57

Maranatha (22-9)....30 18 7 5 -- 60

HANCOCK - 19-56 FG (4-7 3-pt); 15-25 FT; 42 rebounds; 15 fouls ... Scoring (FG-FT-PTS): Kendra Schmidgall 6-19 2-2 15, Courtney Greiner 5-15 6-10 16, Illissa Koehl 5-15 7-9 18, Shae Brown 1-2 0-4 3, Aria Walstad 1-4 0-0 3, Olivia Koehl 0-0 0-0 0, Abby Ascheman 1-1 0-0 2 ... 3-point shots: Brown 1-1, Walstad 1-1, Schmidgall 1-2, I. Koehl 1-3 ... Rebound leaders: Greiner 13, Schmidgall 8, I. Koehl 7 ... Assist leaders: Greiner 3, Schmidgall 3 ... Steal leaders: I. Koehl 1, Walstad 1 ... Blocks: Schmidgall 2

MARANATHA CHRISTIAN ACADEMY - 25-61 FG (5-16 3-pt); 5-12 FT; 40 rebounds; 22 fouls ... Scoring: Makenzie Lee 2-8 0-0 4, Josie Taggatz-Ott 5-8 4-4 17, Alexis Long 6-16 0-0 14, Madison Lee 2-9 0-2 4, Onye Osemenam 5-7 1-5 11, Mikayla Payne 3-5 0-0 6, Jordan Meyen 0-0 0-0 0, Abby Torgerson 2-8 0-1 4 ... 3-point shots: Taggatz-Ott 3-5, Long 2-2, Torgerson 0-2, Mad. Lee 0-2, Mak. Lee 0-4 ... Rebound leaders: Osemenam 10, Mak. Lee 7, Payne 7, Mad. Lee 5 ... Assist leaders: Mak. Lee 2, Long 2 ... Steal leaders: Long 2, Payne 2 ... Blocks: Osemenam 7, Mak. Lee 2