Stewartville’s magical season continued on Thursday, March 16 with an outcome that let all girls basketball followers know that something special is indeed going on with the Tigers.
Stewartville, making its state tournament debut and seeded No. 4 in the Class AAA field, continued to amaze in posting a 60-59 upset of No. 1 Becker in the semifinals of the Minnesota State High School League’s Girls Basketball Tournament at Williams Arena. Junior guard Savannah Hedin scored what proved to be the winning basket on a drive from the left side with 30 seconds remaining in regulation time to send the Tigers (29-2) to their 26th consecutive victory and on the threshold of bringing back a championship to southeastern Minnesota.
But before the Tigers could exhale to rejoice in their latest feat, they had to survive some tense moments that included Becker (26-4) pulling to within a point with eight seconds remaining, strategic timeouts, and ultimately, turnovers courtesy of their defense that sealed the victory.
The victory sends Stewartville into the Class AAA championship game on Saturday where it will face either No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret’s or No. 3 Alexandria Area. Becker was attempting to qualify for the Class AAA championship game for the fifth consecutive season.
Hedin and freshman post Ella Theobald paced the Tigers with 15 points each. Senior guard Haylie Strum added 13 points for Stewartville, which trailed by 11 at the half.
The Tigers used a defensive switch in the second half to limit the Bulldogs to 21 points. All season, Stewartville has primarily played man-to-man defense on opponents, but against Becker, turned to a zone defense.
“I’m just so proud of the kids,” Stewartville coach Ryan Liffrig said. “We were down 11 at halftime. I asked them to do something I don’t usually ask our players to do. They just executed the zone so perfectly.”
Senior guard Danielle Nuest led the Bulldogs with 19 points, including 5 of 10 from three-point range. Backcourt mate, Maren Westin, a senior, added 15 points.