The Osakis girls know that a talented team looking for revenge awaits them in the Section 6AA North semifinals at St. John’s University Saturday afternoon.
Fifth-ranked Sauk Centre has lost just two games this season, but one of those was a coming out party for the Silverstreaks on January 8. Osakis held the Mainstreeters to 21 points below their season average that night in a 49-40 win.
That let the rest of the section know there could be another contender in the 6AA field come tournament time. There’s no doubt that Sauk Centre will have that game in the back of its mind when the two teams step on the court for a 3:30 tip on Saturday afternoon.
“They’re going to want to win really bad because we’re one of their two losses,” Osakis junior guard Annalise Savageau said after leading her team to a 65-41 win over Long Prairie-Grey Eagle on Tuesday night. “They’re going to want to beat us. We just have to play good defense like we did last time. We have a pretty good defensive team, and we always work hard. That usually helps.”
The Silverstreaks know it will take their best effort to beat Sauk Centre for a second time, and it’s a group that seems ready to lay it all on the line. Osakis played loose and confident in running past LPGE in the tournament opener last night. The Silverstreaks once again used a balanced attack and their pressure defense to run away with things against the Thunder.
The first half belonged to junior forward Madi Forsell as she finished with 11 of her 13 points in the opening 18 minutes. Savageau took over from there, scoring 14 of her team-high 18 in the second half. Sprinkle in 14 points from freshman Brittney Sadlemyer and you had the makings of another typical night for this team.
“In our big games, it’s been like that all year long,” head coach Pat Kalpin said of the balance. “Somebody has always stepped up. Everybody knows Annalise is our leading scorer. That’s not a secret for anybody, but you never know which one of these other girls will step up. That’s a great luxury to have for us right now.”
They will likely need that kind of balance again in order to get past Sauk Centre. The Mainstreeters are plenty used to these kind of big games in March. They are coming off three straight trips to the Class AA state tournament, including a second-place finish last season.
The Mainstreeters lost some great talent off that team like all-state guard Kali Peschel, who is in her freshman season at the University of Iowa. They still have plenty of weapons, though. That includes senior Macy Weller, who was one of three Sauk Centre players named to last year’s Class AA all-tournament team.
“We’ve got to be ready for a war against them,” Kalpin said. “You know they’re going to give you every ounce of effort that they have. We’ve got to be ready to do the same. If we don’t, it’s going to be tough on us.”
Kalpin said he expects another low-scoring, defensive game like these two teams played the first time around. Both programs have been in every game this season by using defense as the backbone of their success. Osakis and Sauk Centre are each holding opponents to an impressive 39 points per game.
“We’ve got to be ready to play defense,” Kalpin said. “That’s the bottom line. They’re as good of a defensive team as there is out there. They help well, and they make you work for every shot you have. I think last time we only took about 40 shots to their 44-45 shots. It was a really, slow it down, defensive game, and I don’t expect anything different.”
That means this could come down to which team can take advantage of some of the little things – scoring a couple easy buckets in transition, making free throws. This is the time of year where every team knows it needs to be at its best if it wants to survive and advance.
“Kalpin just told us that every game we have to come out and play our best,” Forsell said. “We have to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season. If we just go out and play our game and do that, I think we can go pretty far, even in this tough section.”
All Kalpin is asking of his girls is that they give every bit of effort they have on Saturday. Even at 22-3, Osakis knows what team is expected to win this weekend. But the Silverstreaks weren’t expected to win the first time these two teams faced each other, either.
“We’re the underdogs,” Kalpin said. “To me, there was more pressure on [the LPGE] game than on Saturday. Today, we weren’t the underdogs. Saturday, we are. On paper, we’re not supposed to win that game in a lot of people’s eyes. But Sauk knows we can beat them because we’ve obviously done that.”
Extras * A player to watch on this Osakis team over the next few years is definitely Brittney Sadlemyer. The 5’10″ freshman hardly played like a timid, young player off the bench on her way to 14 points on Tuesday night.
Sadlemyer is impressive in the way she carries herself on the court for such a young player. She already shows off a variety of post moves and welcomes the contact that comes with playing in the post. She has a knack for finishing strong around the basket.
“She’s that strong girl that’s not afraid to initiate contact,” Kalpin said. “She’s not afraid to run through somebody. You have to have kids like that on your team. Regardless of how rough she looks at times. It’s not cheap, but she’s a physical player. She gets a rebound and they don’t take it away from her very often.”
* It really is amazing to see how loaded the Section 6AA bracket is. For proof, look no further than Albany being the fourth seed in the North subsection. The Huskies are 24-3 and ranked seventh in the latest Class AA polls.
The four teams left from the North (Osakis 22-3; Staples-Motley 20-5; Sauk Centre 24-2 and Albany) are a combined 90-13 this year. Whoever makes it out of that will likely have a 22-4 New London-Spicer team or a 21-4 Eden Valley-Watkins team waiting for them in the section finals next Friday.
“I’m not going to make a case and say it’s the best subsection in the state,” Kalpin said. “But if you look at it on paper, it looks pretty tough. Four teams in our section, four out of 16 teams, are ranked in the top 10. Three in our half. Then we’re right behind them with 22 wins.”
Whichever team makes it through will definitely have earned its ticket to Minneapolis.