Otters search for a state title this time
Last season, the Fergus Falls girls’ basketball team was ranked No. 1 throughout the entire season, taking an undefeated record into the Minnesota Class 3A state tournament. The Otters were rewarded with a No. 3 seed.
Last Friday, the No. 1-ranked Otters made a statement as to what seed they believe they deserve at the state tournament this season with an 80-53 win over No. 3-ranked Albany at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse for their third straight Class 3A, Section 8 title.
“We’ll see what the coaches think,” Fergus Falls coach Brad Strand said after that game. “If we can beat a third-ranked team and put up 80 points on them, I’m kind of hoping the coaches give us a little more respect. We’ll see where we get seeded.”
The Otters ended up second in the state tournament seedings that were announced on Saturday, behind top-seeded Park Center (23-5). Fergus Falls is scheduled to open up the state tournament against Kasson-Mantorville (25-5) today, Wednesday, at 10 a.m. at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
The motto for Fergus Falls (28-1) this season has been “unfinished business.” After being ranked No. 1 all of last season and bringing an undefeated record to state, the Otters lost 79-78 in double overtime to Monticello in the state quarterfinals.
Strand had that score on the scoreboard at the first day of practice this season, and it will certainly be back up there for practice before heading to state.
“It reminds them how bad it hurts,” Strand said. “You have to win your first game (at state). You have to take it one at a time, but you have to win that first game.”
Before winning that first state game, Fergus Falls had to win Friday’s game. The Otters opened the game with a 9-2 run and never trailed. Albany got within two points early at 11-9, but the Otters responded with a 22-3 run and they were on their way to settle their unfinished business.
“You never know what’s going to happen when it comes to rankings, but, no matter what, we have to go out and get that first win,” said Fergus Falls senior point guard Brianna Rasmusson, who finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. “We didn’t last year, but hopefully we do this year.”
Albany (26-2) had come into Friday’s game with no losses against teams in Class 3A. The Otters were more than happy to give them one. It was a 43-31 lead for Fergus Falls early in the second half before the Otters slammed the door shut with a 16-7 run.
“As soon as it started, I thought the flow was just there,” said Fergus Falls senior forward Anna Monke, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. “We expected to score inside, but when they give us outside, you take what you can get.”
Bailey Strand, a University of North Dakota basketball commit, took everything she could get, dropping in 33 points, including five 3-pointers, and hauling in nine rebounds.
She hasn’t forgotten the sting of last season’s loss to Monticello, which featured the most points between two teams in tournament history. No team has scored more points in a loss in the tournament than the Otters’ 78.
“There is a chip on my shoulder for sure,” Bailey said. “I think there is one on the entire team’s too. It just motivates us even more to want to win.”