MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Maranatha Christian’s 11-point lead over Mountain Iron-Buhl had vanished, and an eight-point margin had shrunk to two with less than six minutes remaining.
But the pressure didn’t faze Alexis Long, who calmly sank a 3-point basket to touch off a closing 12-2 run, giving the Mustangs a 49-37 win and a second straight Class 1A girls’ basketball state championship.
“Just as always, I was open, give me the ball, and I’ll put it in,” said Long, who finished with a game-high 15 points and led a fierce defense by the Mustangs that forced 24 turnovers.
“This is the way I wanted to go out, two state championships in a row,” Long said.
Onye Osemenam followed up Long’s key shot with a pair of layups that put Maranatha in control. She ended up with 10 points after scoring 11 in last year’s championship game win over Nicollet.
“This year, it’s 10 times greater,” Osemenam said.
The loss snapped Mountain Iron-Buhl’s 15-game winning streak and kept the team from becoming the first from Minnesota’s Iron Range to win a girls’ state title since Chisholm did it in 1984.
“We make a few plays here and there in the second half, maybe the results are different,” Rangers coach Jeff Buffetta said.
The Rangers made enough plays to gain a commanding 54-34 edge in rebounds. But in addition to the turnovers, the Rangers made just 15 of 60 field goals (25 percent), with just one of them coming from 3-point range.
Dakota Winans led Mountain Iron-Buhl with 12 points, while Allie Knuti grabbed 15 rebounds.
Winans’ basket with 12:58 left gave the Rangers a 29-28 lead. Osemenam then scored to put Maranatha in the lead for good, as the Mustangs held off Mountain Iron-Buhl’s late run.
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