Northern Lights attend National ChampionshipsAfter qualifying for the Division I AAU State Championships in early May and after an 11th-place finish against the best competition in Minnesota in the Division I State Championships, the Northern Lights ninth-grade girls basketball team qualified for the AAU Division II National Championships in Orlando, Fla., July 8-13.
After qualifying for the Division I AAU State Championships in early May and after an 11th-place finish against the best competition in Minnesota in the Division I State Championships, the Northern Lights ninth-grade girls basketball team qualified for the AAU Division II National Championships in Orlando, Fla., July 8-13.
Northern Lights opened pool play on Tuesday, July 9, against the Lady Pistols from Georgia and shot the ball extremely well. Emma Nelson of Northwestern High School in Maple, Wis., scored the first four points of the second half to keep the Northern Lights’ momentum rolling, but unfortunately it was the Lady Pistols who got hot late and Northern Lights fell 46-43.
In their second game of pool play, Northern Lights lost another close game to the Massachusetts Ducks 43-39. The girls overcame a slow start to take a 21-20 lead at the half and built a nine-point lead early in the second half, but a poor finish to the game left Northern Lights 0-2 with one pool play game remaining.
Northern Lights had to get up early for an 8 a.m. game to play the Tampa Bay Inferno to help improve their seed in the Classic Bracket of the D-II Championships. Another slow start and lack of scoring punch had the Lights with their back up against the wall as they trailed 18-8 late in the half. Aleia Lupa of Northwestern hit a shot late to cut the lead to 18-10.
The momentum of that shot carried into the second half as the girls went on a 12-0 run to claim a 22-18 lead. Maggie Leider of Duluth East scored on a reverse layup off of a baseline drive as part of the run. They pushed the lead to 32-21 behind three put-back baskets by Dana Tekavec of Hinckley-Finlayson, but the Inferno would not go away. The lead was down to two but Katie Stark of Hayward calmly knocked down two free throws and her teammates followed suit to close out the 44-38 win.
The win guaranteed Northern Lights a bye in the first round of the Classic Bracket and allowed them the opportunity to relax for the remainder of the day at Cocoa Beach.
In the opener of bracket play Northern Lights took on Slam City of Virginia, whose excellent guard play made it a tough matchup. Trailing by one late in the first half, Lupa threw up a half-court shot that hit nothing but the net and gave Northern Lights a 22-20 lead.
Slam City took control in the second half and with four minutes remaining Northern Lights was down six points. Andrea Hakamaki of Cromwell-Wright hit a free throw and Stark knocked down a jump shot to cut the lead to three. Lily Gruber-Schulz of Grand Marais (Cook County High School) hit a bank shot late to tie the game.
Kianna Hren of Hermantown played excellent defense on Slam City’s unbelievable point guard late in the game and Northern Lights got the stops they needed to give themselves the chance to win the game.
With the game tied at 32-32, Kassidy Steen of Cloquet rebounded and scored off of her own miss to give Northern Lights a 34-32 lead. They survived a last second shot by Slam City and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Classic Bracket.
Northern Lights played the Kenner Angels of Louisiana in an elimination game on Friday, July 12. The winner would move on to the semifinals of the Classic Bracket and would guarantee themselves two more games on Saturday. The game was neck and neck in the first half and early into the second half. Anna Fossen of Cloquet turned two steals into baskets to help Northern Lights keep pace.
With the game tied at 28-28, Megan Aho of Floodwood hit a three-point shot and converted a steal and a layup to put Northern Lights up 33-28 with six minutes remaining. Unfortunately for Northern Lights it was all Kenner from there.
The Angels finished the game on a 20-5 run as they hit a barrage of three pointers and made their free throws, cruising to the 48-38 win.
Northern Lights finished the tournament 2-3 and were 13-9 this season. They played at the highest level in the state of Minnesota as they played Division I AAU basketball in every tournament they competed in.