Third time is not a charm for WHSWoodbury girls fall to White Bear Lake in Section 4AAAA basketball final.
By: Tom Carothers, Woodbury Bulletin
A successful season fell one game shot of the promised land as white Bear Lake denied the Woodbury girls basketball team its first trip to the State Class AAAA Tournament since 2004 by defeating the Royals, 53-48, in the Section 4AAAA championship game at South St. Paul High School on Thursday night.
The Bears, themselves now qualifying for State for the first time in five seasons, had lost to Woodbury in both regular-season Suburban East Conference meetings — but this time led for most of the contest and seemed to have an answer for every Royals rally attempt.
It was a close game throughout, with Woodbury holding modest one-possession leads through most of the contest's first five minutes before White Bear Lake did the same for a six-minute span.
Guard Jess Thone gave the Royals their final lead of the first half — and, as it would turn out, the first ten minutes of the second half — with a three-pointer that made the count 18-16 in favor of WHS with 4:58 remaining before the break.
From there, however, the Bears went on a 10-2 run to close out the frame and head to the locker room with their biggest lead of the game at 26-20.
The Royals came out of the intermission hot and tied the score at 28-all just over two-and-a-half minutes into the interval before their opponents again seized control to go up by five points, 34-29, by the six-minute mark.
Yet, due to tenacious play from forward Sarah Hintz and her teammates, Woodbury managed to again trim the Bears' advantage and took the lead for the first time since Thone's first-half three as guard Carrie Lang scored on a runner to make the tally 40-39 Royals with 7:05 left to play.
The lead would exchange hands twice over the ensuing three-plus minutes before a Hintz lay-up with 3:47 put Woodbury up for what would be the final time at 46-44.
White Bear Lake slowly but surely began to sway matters in their favor, making just enough free throws to matter and taking full advantage of a number of Royals miscues as time dwindled away.
The Bears tied the game at 46-all on their final field goal of the game at 3:21 and took the lead for good at 47-46 on the first of their seven successful free throws with 2:31 to go.
Woodbury had a succession of opportunities to take the lead back but could not get the look they wanted or the basket they needed to counter White Bear Lake's marginal last-minute success at the free throw line.
Hintz scored what became the final basket of the Royals' season and her high school career on a putback two-pointer with :20 left to claw WHS back to within two points at 52-48.
It took just three seconds for Thone to foul Bears forward Alexis Foley, however, the freshman all-but iced the game by making both her shots from the charity stripe, giving her team a four-point lead.
With its victory nearly in hand, White Bear Lake added one more free throw with three seconds remaining for the lasting five-point edge as the Royals did not attempt a final shot before a sea of orange-clad fans stormed the court to celebrate the Bears' section championship.
White Bear Lake heads to State with a 22-7 mark as Woodbury's season ends at 24-4. Hintz, who needed 34 points to become the second member of this year's team to hit 1,000 points, scored a team-high 17 points to conclude her WHS tally at 983. Thone, who did break 1,000 back in January, chipped in 15 points in the loss.