Rangers shoot down Cardinals in top-five showdown

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CROMWELL—After Mountain Iron-Buhl staved off Cromwell-Wright in a back-and-forth girls basketball tussle in late December, it set the stage for Monday's rematch between two of Minnesota's best Class A teams — and two of the best in the Northland, regardless of classification.

Since the Rangers' 66-61 victory in the title game of their holiday tournament, MIB and the Cardinals had combined to lose twice — both of which came at Class AA No. 1 Roseau. Consequently, the Rangers solidified their grip on the No. 1 Class A ranking, while Cromwell-Wright steadily climbed the list, checking in at No. 4 entering the sequel.

After a nearly flawless first half, MIB was ahead 41-22 ... but the Cardinals stormed back in the second and narrowed the gap, outscoring the Rangers 35 to 24. Chelsea Swatek, poised to become the Cardinals' all-time scoring leader, tallied 19 of her game-high 26 points in the second half as Cromwell-Wright chipped away. It wasn't enough, however, as the Rangers escaped with a 65-57 win.

Cardinals coach Jeff Gronner said it was the biggest crowd he'd ever seen in Cromwell for a girls' game, as the gym was filled to the max and parking spilled out onto Highway 210.

Mtn. Iron-Buhl 41-24—65

Cromwell-Wright 22-35—57

For MIB - Mary Burke 20, Mya Buffetta 19, Macy Savela 12, Chelsea Mason 9, Allie Negen 5. Totals 21 16-20 65. 3-point goals - Buffetta 5, Savela, Mason.

For CW - Chelsea Swatek 26, Shaily Hakamaki 10, Teana Hakamaki 10, Bailey Gronner 7, Taya Hakamaki 4. Totals 17 16-20 57. 3-point goals - Swatek 4, Teana Hakamaki 2, Gronner.