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Girls' Basketball: Raptors defeat rival Woodbury for spot in section finals

East Ridge senior Kelen Kenol shoots over Woodbury's Cecile Kieger in the first half of the Raptors' 59-51 win in the section semifinals Saturday at Hastings. Kenol had 12 points for East Ridge in the victory. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 5
East Ridge center Mariah Sexe stands between Woodbury guard Rachel Hakes and the basket during Saturday's section playoff game. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 5
Woodbury's Ellie Kreibich (23) knocks the ball away from East Ridge guard Emma Stoehr (14). (Photo by John Molene)3 / 5
As teammate Linnea Yacovella sets a screen, East Ridge guard Noelle Tomes (12) tries to get past the defense of Woodbury's Kassidy Mackie. (Photo by John Molene)4 / 5
Woodbury senior Cecile Kieger drives to the basket as East Ridge center Mariah Sexe defends. (Photo by John Molene)5 / 5

East Ridge seniors Noelle Tomes, Mariah Sexe and Kelen Kenol combined for 42 points to lead the Raptors to a 59-51 win over archrival Woodbury Saturday and into the Class 4A, Section 4 finals.

Tomes scored 16, Sexe had 14 and Kenol 12 as the Raptors advanced to the section final game for the second straight season. Last year, White Bear Lake defeated East Ridge 56-51 for the championship.

East Ridge used its inside power game late to pull away from the Royals. The Raptors looked to post players Sexe and Kenol, and they responded with a series of clutch baskets.

"Basically, he said if we didn’t get the ball inside, get moving inside, that we wouldn’t win," Sexe said about advice from head coach Glen Wurm. "So we definitely came out, and we did that, through drives, through throwing it into the post, through drives that were leading to the post. Just all the different ways. And I think that was a huge part of our win.”

Kenol was a significant factor in the Raptors' push to the post game. The Royals held her to just two points in the final regular season game between the two rivals. But her dozen points Saturday were perhaps the key to the victory. Tomes also doubled her scoring output, going from 8 points in the Feb. 22 game to 16 on Saturday.

The Raptors led just 53-45 with 1:43 left but were able to keep the ball away from the Royals in the closing minutes.

East Ridge led from start to finish, but the Royals responded with a min-run every time the Raptors threatened to pull away. East Ridge led by scores of 10-4 and 23-13 in the first half before taking a 25-18 advantage into halftime.

The Raptors faced trouble with six minutes left to play in the second half. Woodbury had closed to within 30-27 and sent star center Sexe to the bench with her third foul.

Instead, the Raptors turned to Kenol to help them keep a lead. Sexe and Kenol scored on back-to-back possessions to make it a 44-33 lead with 4:28 to play.

Woodbury again charged back, cutting East Ridge’s lead to 48-42 with three minutes to play. But East Ridge held off the Royals the rest of the way.

After back-to-back losses in mid-February to Park and Woodbury, Wurm said the Raptors had some lessons to learn about playing winning basketball.

“I think it’s safe to say we took a step in the right direction,” Wurm said. “At the end of the night, it’s all about finding a way to put yourself on the right side of the scoreboard and advancing in tournament play like this. It’s all about finding a way to advance. So we’re making progress in that regard, and I think you saw that when we share the ball in critical moments there – we talked about the importance of making a play for a teammate.”

Senior Cecile Kieger ended her Woodbury career with a big night, scoring 20 for the Royals. Junior guard Rachel Hakes led Woodbury with 22 points and notched the 1,000th point of her career in mid-game.

While Kieger and Hakes got their points, the Raptors never let any of the other Royals get going offensively.

“I think we worked super hard on defense to limit them,” East Ridge senior Lauren Johnson said. “I thought we worked hard and played as a team and executed.”

Woodbury ended its season with a 15-13 record.

“Sections is always different,” Woodbury coach Megan Kirchenwitz said. “There’s a difference in intensity and tightness. I think my kids played and lost with grace and pride, Woodbury pride, and they left it all out on the court. They played their hearts out.”

East Ridge (21-7) will play White Bear Lake (19-9) again for the section championship on Thursday at Hastings. White Bear Lake edged Cretin-Derham Hall 56-53 in the other section semifinal game Saturday.

East Ridge swept the regular-season series with the Bears.

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