Minneota's Abby Hennen, left, and Natalee Rolbiecki, right, apply defensive pressure on Mt. Iron-Buhl's Jordan Zubich (4) during their semifinal win Tuesday at Target Center.

Vikings hold off Mt. Iron-Buhl to reach state championship

With Minneota's unbeaten season on the line, Abby Hennen calmly sank a free throw with 2.1 seconds remaining to give the Vikings a hard-fought 54-53 victory over Mountain Iron-Buhl in the Class A State Girls Basketball semifinals Tuesday at Target Center.

The Vikings (24-0) will face Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the state championship at 1 p.m. Friday at Target Center. Minneota beat BBE 42-38 on Feb. 20 at home.

Minneota fought back from a six-point deficit with 3:22 left and held the Rangers scoreless over the final 2:30 of the game to pull out the win.

Tied 53-53, Mt. Iron-Buhl held the ball for a final shot in an attempt to win the game. But the Rangers missed and Hennen was fouled.

The senior All-Stater missed the first free throw and Mt. Iron-Buhl coach called a timeout in an attempt to ice Hennen. But Hennen, who led all scorers with 19 points proved clutch once again by snapping the cords with her second free throw.

A desperation toss at the buzzer by the Rangers missed the mark and the Vikings, who won the state title two years ago, return to the finals.

Natalee Rolbiecki, a junior All-Stater, had 18 points and Abby Rost, a senior, added 11 points for the Vikings.

After MIB's Jacie Kvas scored on a layup, the Rangers (18-5), who have no seniors on the team, held a 53-47 lead with 3:22 left and were seemingly in control.

Hennen then whittled the deficit in half by draining a three-pointer with 2:14 remaining in the game.

The Rangers turned the ball over to the Vikings and Abby Rost scored inside with 1:41 left to cut the deficit to 53-52.

After a missed shot by MIB, Rolbiecki pulled down the rebound and was fouled with 1:01 to go. She made one of two free throws to knot the game, 53-53.

The Rangers, who did not score over the final 3:22 of the game, then called a timeout and decided to go for the final shot. But they took the shot early and left 6.1 seconds on the clock. Employing a full-court press, the Rangers then fouled Hennen with 2.1 seconds remaining.

For the first time all season, Minneota trailed at halftime, 29-26 against the young Ranger squad. At one point, the Vikings fell behind 15-8 before Coach Johnston employed a full-court press and the Vikings went on a 12-2 run for a 20-17 lead.

After Minneota took a 24-19 lead, MIB went on a 12-2 run of its own to grab the halftime lead.

Jordan Zubich led the Rangers with 14 points. Ava Butler had 12 points.

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