WATERTOWN – An unprecedented season of girls’ basketball in Aberdeen came to an end in the first ever meeting between two Hub City schools in a state tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Aberdeen Roncalli used a strong third-quarter surge to turn back Aberdeen Christian 44-34 in the fifth place game during the State B Tournament at the Watertown Civic Arena.
“It was kind of a battle all night,” said Roncalli coach Derek Larson. “We had to really dig deep to win.”
Unlike a prior meeting where the Cavaliers played with a double-digit lead most of the game on the way to a 21-point win, the rematch was a tightly-contested affair.
“We kind of focused on defense more,” said Christian point guard Joy Rohrbach, “just kind of shut them down a little bit.”
The Cavaliers led 18-16 at halftime before gaining some separation in a 19-8 third quarter.
Morgan Fiedler scored seven points and Olivia Hanson six in the pivotal period as Roncalli was able to open up a double-digit advantage.
“I thought our defense was really good the first half,” said Christian coach Michael Rohrbach. “The second half, you know it’s tough to contain them for two whole halves, but even what we did was great. You just have to score a few more points to be able to win.”
Roncalli held the Knights to single-digit point totals in each of the first three quarters and then allowed just 10 points in the final eight minutes.
The Cavaliers focused on Christian center Mallory Miller, but also kept an eye on the other Knights as well.
“We were kind of concentrating on her,” said Roncalli senior Jeci Ewart, “but the other girls also know how to get to the rim and put in a basket, so we had to concentrate on everyone.”
The Cavaliers talked about denying people access to the lane and then helping out when a Christian player did drive to the basket.
“We just kind of talked about how we need to stop our girl on dribble drive,” Ewart said, “and if someone gets around them we have to play help defense and really just get in there and stop them.”
While Roncalli eventually built a 14-point lead early in the final quarter, the Knights did not go quietly. Christian got to within nine points at 42-33 and then had a solid look at a three-pointer down 10 in the closing minutes, but could not slice the margin further.
The Cavaliers collected 16 offensive rebounds that they turned into 17 second-chance points to help fuel the victory.
“We knew that we’d have to rebound well and limit the turnovers for a chance,” Coach Rohrbach said, “and you just can’t give up that many second-chance points against a really good team.”
A big factor was one of the shortest players on the floor.
Hanson managed to secure six offensive rebounds and also collected five steals in the contest.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. all year,” Larson said of the rebounding. “Doing the little things, like Olivia Hanson going to the boards.”
Fiedler led all scorers with 16 points for the Cavaliers. She consistently got into the lane where she was able to finish with either hand.
“Very good player,” said Joy Rohrbach who guarded Fiedler. “I just kind of stayed in front of her, not giving her either side, because she’s good at both.”
Madelyn Bragg and Hanson each finished with 10 points for Roncalli.
Joy Rohrbach and Grace Kaiser each scored 11 points to top Christian. Miller added seven.
The Cavaliers, who started five seniors, ended the year with a 24-2 record.
“How many teams get to say they won five state tournament games two consecutive years? Really proud of these guys,” Larson said. “After our loss in the opening round, we knew it was going to be tough the last two nights. Again, really proud of the way we finished. We got to win two games at the state tournament.”
The Knights (21-5) also had a memorable season, being rated for the first time, qualifying for their first state tournament and winning their first state tourney game.
“A lot of firsts in school history,” Coach Rohrbach said. “I told the girls it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.”
In the end, it turned out to be a fitting finish to a memorable one-of-a kind season for girls’ basketball in the Hub City.
“I thought both of us being in the top five all year was big for girls’ basketball, especially in Aberdeen,” Larson said. “Especially both teams led by a lot of seniors. What a class for Aberdeen.”
Saturday’s state-tourney meeting was something that has never happened before in Aberdeen history and something that will likely be talked about for years to come.
“Definitely cool to have two Aberdeen teams go to state and then to be able to play each other at state,” Coach Rohrbach said. “Just kind of a cool way to end the season for sure.”
ABERDEEN CHRISTIAN (21-5): Joy Rohrbach 4 2-5 11, Hanna Miller 2 0-0 4, Mallory Miller 1 5-6 7, Grace Kaiser 5 1-2 11, Chloe Bosma 0 1-2 1. Totals 12-41 9-15 34.
ABERDEEN RONCALLI (24-2): Madelyn Bragg 5 0-0 10, Allie Morgan 1 0-0 2, Morgan Fiedler 6 3-3 16, Jeci Ewart 1 0-0 2, Olivia Hanson 5 0-0 10, Ella Hanson 1 0-0 2, Ava Hanson 1 0-0 2. Totals 20-58 3-4 44.
Aberdeen Christian 9 16 21 34
Aberdeen Roncalli 8 18 37 44
3-point field goals – Rohrbach; Fiedler. Total fouls – Aberdeen Christian 8; Aberdeen Roncalli 14. Rebounds – Aberdeen Christian 23 (H. Miller 8); Aberdeen Roncalli 39 (Bragg 8, Ewart 8, O. Hanson 7). Turnovers – Aberdeen Christian 17; Aberdeen Roncalli 13. Steals – Aberdeen Christian 8; Aberdeen Roncalli 12 (O. Hanson 5).
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