LAND O'LAKES — The teams were ranked second and third in 5A-8, and people in the stands said they expected a close game. For the first half, it seemed they were right.
That changed when host Land O’Lakes broke away in the third quarter to defeat River Ridge 52-33 and gain ground in the district.
Land O’Lakes coach Phyllis Crain said defense kept the Gators in the game through the first half, setting up their takeover in the second.
“It’s a team game, and they just played as a team and believed in each other,” Crain said.
Nicole Kraning, one of the Gators’ top defensive players, was sidelined with an ankle injury in the second quarter, but they were still able to contain River Ridge’s top scorers, Leah Ford and Eve Hay.
“They just stepped up for their fallen teammate,” Crain said.
The Royal Knights (9-2, 6-2) kept the score close during the first half. The teams tied it at the end of the first quarter, and it looked like they would end the half that way.
A 3-point shot by the Gators’ Pamela Andrade dropped into the net as the buzzer sounded.
River Ridge couldn’t stop the Gators in the third quarter. Land O’Lakes had 22 points, driving ahead to go into the fourth with an 18-point lead. Andrade sank a halfcourt shot as the buzzer sounded, bringing fans to their feet.
The Royal Knights scored consistently in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough. Land O’Lakes’ Taylor McDonald made a layup as the clock ran out.
Andrade led both teams in scoring with 18, including four 3-pointers. McDonald had 14 points, and Makala Canada had 10.
Ford led River Ridge with 17 points and Kayle Stark had nine.