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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2005

Alexa Grones

Another run is over
Cardinals lose to Tower-Soudan
by John Grones  |  March 8, 2005

No one could have anticipated the outcome of the Section 7A girls basketball tournament this year. There were six very good teams and four of them remained after the first three rounds. All four teams, the Barnum Bombers, Tower-Soudan Eagles, Cromwell Cardinals and Mountain Iron-Buhl Rangers, had 20-win seasons, and all had high rankings in the tournament.

On Tuesday, March 1, the Barnum Bombers were defeated by the Tower-Soudan Eagles, 55-46, and the Cromwell Cardinals destroyed the Mountain Iron-Buhl Rangers, 51-21.

The #1 seeds were out, but not two talented basketball teams.

For Cromwell, the semifinal game versus Mountain Iron-Buhl was a special night. The team effort included solid defense, team rebounding and balanced scoring, all features recognized by the opposing head coach.

Jeff Buffetta, head coach of the Mountain Iron-Buhl Rangers, felt that two special players stepped up for the Cardinals, but he was just as impressed with how well all five players worked together. “I love the discipline of all five Cromwell players,” he said. “Their team play was phenomenal. It was a great effort by them.”

Cromwell head coach Dave Foster also recognized that this was one of those special teams. “They are just unselfish,” he said. “That is the best way to describe our team. Kylee (Smith) took 10 shots in the game, well below her average. She didn’t force her shots and she was fine with it.”

In the end, Cromwell shot a high 47 percent from the field. Alexa Grones and Kylee Smith combined to hit 8 out of 12 three-point shots and led Cromwell with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Alissa Granholm and Janel Jordan contributed to the balanced scoring with 10 and eight points, respectively.

For Mountain Iron-Buhl, the shooting did not go quite as well. They shot just 20 percent from the field and 25 percent from the free throw line. According to head coach Jeff Buffetta, he was pleased with the defensive effort. “I don’t mind giving up 51 points in a playoff game. We have to score more points.”

Looking back on the game, coaches, players and fans would agree that the victory was due to a tremendous team effort by Cromwell. As they have done all year, a majority of their field goals were the result of assists. The team had 20 field goals and 19 assists, which is a tribute to their unselfish play.

Alexa Grones led the team with eight assists followed by Kylee Smith with three, Alissa Granholm with three and Janel Jordan with two. Heather Heino, Jayna Anderson and Selena Smith each had one.

Section Final game

Another incredible run by the Cromwell Cardinals came to an end on Friday, March 4 at Hibbing Memorial Arena. The Tower-Soudan Eagles used their height and athleticism to end Cromwell’s string of 12 victories and a return trip to the state tournament.

For the Cardinals, the task was to score and defend against a team whose smallest player was taller than their tallest player. The result was a valiant effort by Cromwell, but the height won out in the end. Rebounding turned out to be the single most glaring difference. Tower-Soudan had 51 rebounds to just 27 by Cromwell.
Other than that, the game was pretty equal. Cromwell shot 32 percent, Tower-Soudan shot 34 percent and Cromwell had 16 turnovers to Tower-Soudan’s 17.

The score was close until the second quarter when Tower-Soudan came out and went to a box-and-one defense, shadowing Kylee Smith. Kylee started the game on fire, hitting 13 of her team’s first 16 points.

The defensive switch appeared to be a good one for the Eagles as Cromwell struggled offensively for most of the second quarter.

A series of blocked shots by six-foot post player Katie Jamnick ignited Tower-Soudan. They outscored Cromwell 18-7 and finished the half with a nine-point lead.

The Cardinals fought hard in the second half, but were unable to gain ground in the third quarter. They actually trailed by 16 points early in the fourth quarter when the Cardinals made their final run. Kylee Smith hit a three-point basket, followed by two more by Alexa Grones and the quick nine points pulled the team to within seven points. Two possessions later, Alissa Granholm and Heather Heino hit back-to-back baskets and the lead was down to five. Unfortunately the shots didn’t drop the rest of the way.

Head coach Dave Foster felt his team let a great opportunity get away. “A team only gets this window of opportunity a few times,” he said. “I just hope that people don’t look at this team as failing.”

Coach Foster was proud of the way his team fought back in the second half versus Tower-Soudan. “We didn’t get the ball into Kylee’s hands like we wanted, but Alexa stepped it up with 14 points and no turnovers in the second half. She also finished the game with 11 assists and six rebounds.”

“We had an awesome run,” coach Foster added. “We had a great streak of 12 wins in a row, something we didn’t do last year; we defended better, holding teams to 10 points per game less than last year; and we actually shot a higher percentage than last year.”

Section 7A champion Tower-Soudan will now play the Section 3A champion, Minneota, on Wednesday, March 9 at 8:00 p.m. in Williams Arena.

This article first appeared in the March 8, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.