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Girls Basketball: Sixth-ranked Raptors roll in season opener

Emma Stoehr of East Ridge puts her shoulders down and drives to the basket in the second half. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 3
East Ridge guard Bridgette Siefert splits a pair of Eagan defenders as she drives to the basket in the firs half. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 3
Kelen Kenol of the Raptors muscles her way to the basket in the first half against visiting Eagan. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 3

East Ridge opened the 2016-17 season looking every bit like the sixth-ranked team in the state Tuesday.

The sixth-ranked Raptors combined a strong offense with a suffocating defense for a 67-21 victory over visiting Eagan.

Senior post players Mariah Sexe and Kelen Kenol combined for 27 points and dominated the rebounding at both ends.

“I think it was probably the best start to the season that we could have had,” said Kenol. “We definitely played as a team, and we played really well. And we deserved what we got — a nice big win. So, yeah, I think it was a great start.”

Bottled up for most of the first half, star senior guard Noelle Tomes of the Raptors scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half.

Defensively, the Raptors were everywhere, allowing the visiting Wildcats just five baskets in the 28 minutes the East Ridge starters were in the game.

East Ridge jumped out to a commanding 18-2 lead during the first nine minutes of play and led 31-8 at the half.

To restate, the Raptors allowed just one Eagan basket in the first 11 minutes of the game. The Raptors are going to face better teams than Eagan, notably in the next two games, but that’s still championship-level defense.

“Our defense was great,” said Sexe, who led the Raptors with 18 points. “Coming in we didn’t want any help in the post. We just wanted post to go one-on-one. That way our guards could hug the guards out on the arc and not let them get any shots, and that’s exactly what we did. When they passed inside, they couldn’t score on the post and when they passed outside they had to be wide open to score those points.”

The second half was more of the same. The Raptors went on a 40-10 run and led 55-14 with 10 minutes to play when coach Glen Wurm pulled Tomes, the last starter on the floor for the Raptors.

“I thought that was our best half of the court, was on the defensive end,” said coach Wurm. “I thought we were really solid there. It’s so important to be able to defend, and do it without fouling, and keep people off the free-throw line. So I thought we were really terrific with that tonight.”

“I thought we rebounded the ball really well,” Wurm continued. “I didn’t see them getting a lot of second chances, which is good. The girls played really well.”

Starters Emma Stoehr and Lauren Johnson scored six points each for the Raptors. Olivia Thomas and Meaghan Rapp came off the bench to score four points apiece.

East Ridge (1-0) plays at Lakeville South (0-0) Thursday and then takes on third-ranked Park Center in the Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins Lindbergh Center Saturday morning.

To hang with the top teams, one thing both players and coach Wurm said they could improve upon was the team’s passing.

“I definitely think one thing we could improve, according to this game, is our passing on transitions,” said Sexe. “We had too many turnovers, especially against a team that we can push against. We need to score those baskets instead of turning them over.”