The defending Class AA champion Providence Academy Lions used a slowdown, ball control offense and 16 points from Leah Szabla that added up to a 33-22 win over the Pine Island Panthers Wednesday night in the Class AA state quarterfinals at Target Center in Minneapolis
. It took a while for the zeros to be erased from the giant, center hung scoreboard as Szabla, who will be playing for North Dakota next season, scored the first basket 1:23 into the game. The Panthers went on an 8-0 run highlighted by a pair of free throws from Nicole Fokken and a three pointer from Noelle Langworthy. Providence Academy started taking time off the clock by going into a slowdown offense but nothing came from it. Alison Netwon put Pine Island up by six. Then the Lions roared back with a four point play by Szabla and her three pointer put them into the lead.
Providence Academy went into a 2-2-1 defense as Pine Island played for the last shot. Nothing went into the net and the Lions led at the half 18-12. The second half started with points being scarce as 40 degree days in March. Newton opened the scoring for the Panthers 2:09 into the half and the Lions, who once again went into a slowdown offense did not record a point for the first 7:48 until Szabla hit a pair of free throws. Head coach Ray Finley didn't like what he saw and he called a :30 time out to get things back on track. It paid off as Makenzie Murtha hit a three point play. Providence Academy also benefited at the line due to an intentional foul on the Panthers Cade Heeron. Mattie Shelton hit a three pointer to cut the lead to six but it was all Pine Island can do to catch Providence Academy.
Providence Academy, based in Plymouth, is in its 10th basketball seasson and advanced to the Class AA finals against the Braham-BOLD winner Friday at 6 PM. Pine Island, playing in their first state tournament, had many fans populating the blue Target Center seats in Golden gopher colors of maroon and gold, concluded their season with a 26-6 record.