MINNEAPOLIS - Menahga's third-ranked defense lived up to its billing Thursday night as the Braves quieted BOLD's potent offense for a 65-54 win in the Minnesota State Girls Basketball Tournament Class A quarterfinals at Maturi Pavilion.
BOLD will forge on in the consolation bracket at noon Friday against Mountain Iron-Buhl at the Gangelhoff Center at Concordia University, St. Paul. Menahga advanced to the semifinals to take on No. 2 Goodhue at 2 p.m. Friday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Menahga's defense was oppressive from the opening tip, holding the Warriors to 19 points on 21.9 percent shooting in the opening half.
The Braves entered the game allowing just 37.8 points per game and shut down BOLD's offense for large stretches with a swarming press that discombobulated Warrior ball handlers. The result was 20 Warriors turnovers.
"They are very scrappy and their hands are very active," said BOLD head coach Brian Kingery. "So when you get it down, if you bring the ball down a little bit, they're all over it."
Menahga took the first lead of the game and held on tight, never relinquishing the lead thanks to a strong night from the slashing Alyssa Peterson and the shooting of Cierra Ahlf.
Peterson, an All-State guard, scored 18 points while Ahlf knocked down five of her nine 3-point shots and scored 21 points.
BOLD cut the Braves' lead to four points at 28-24 on the other side of the half but Menahga turned on the defensive jets and capitalized with a 19-0 run. During that run, Menahga forced 10 turnovers to make it a 47-24 game with 12:13 to go.
"We talked about it before the game, that we were going to have to contest their threes and they had too many wide open ones," Kingery said. "They buried them. (Ahlf), (Peterson), (Annika Aho), they all hit shots. It was one of those things where they shot the ball well and we didn't hit any. It was a disappointing little spurt of ugliness."
The Warriors bounced back to make it a close, getting within 11 points with just over three minutes to play. They cut the edge to nine points with just more than a minute to go, in large part thanks to a strong effort from Makenna Steffel. The senior forward finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds but the Braves buckled down to earn the win.
"I'm very happy with the way we kept fighting," Kingery said. "It would have been easy to quit there. I think the big thing is the character my girls have. These are phenomenal young ladies. They're not going to give up. They're going to keep fighting until it's all said and done."
Aside from the scoreless stretch, BOLD's defense kept right up with Menahga. Both teams shot an identical 19-for-52 from the field (36.5 percent) and the Warriors managed to force 16 turnovers.
One of the differences was where those 19 shots originated. Menahga knocked down 10 3-pointers, hitting the long ball at a 41.7 percent clip, while BOLD managed just one 3-pointer from 10 attempts.
BOLD entered the game with a notable size advantage, sporting seven players listed 5-foot-9 or taller, including Steffel at 6-feet. The Warriors tried to utilize that advantage early by getting the ball deep into the post. Despite the height advantage, though, Menahga was able to bottle up the Warriors in the paint for most of the game.
"I thought they did a nice job bringing in help and doubling down to make sure it wasn't just wide open shots," Steffel said.
The Warriors did finished with a 34-18 advantage on points in the paint and made the most of second-chance points, outscoring the Braves 23-10 in that category. But despite a similar number of turnovers, Menahga excelled on making the most of the turnovers. They scored 22 points directly off turnovers, compared to BOLD's eight.
"Their speed was a bigger factor than our height was," Kingery said, "and that was kind of the big question heading in."
Menahga 65, BOLD 54
BOLD (22-6) 19 35 - 54
Menahga (30-1) 28 37 - 65
BOLD - Scoring: Morgan Schmitz 7, Makenna Steffel 21, Ashley Trongard 8, Makayla Snow 12, Brenna Weis 6 ... 3-point shots: Schmitz 1 ... Rebound leader: Steffel 12, Snow 8, Trongard 7 ... Assist leader: Trongard 2, Snow 2, Weis 2 ... Steal leader: Snow 3
MENAHGA - Scoring: Alyssa Peterson 18, Tara Hendrickson 9, Annika Aho 10, Cierra Ahlf 21, Greta Hillukka 4, Martha Peterson 3 ... 3-point shots: Peterson 3, Aho 1, Ahlf 5, M Peterson 1 ... Rebound leader: Ahlf 12 ... Assist leader: A Peterson 3 ... Steal leader: T Hendrickson 4, A Peterson 3, Ahlf 3