By Per Peterson /
The Panthers turned negative energy from an opening-round loss at the state tournament into something positive Thursday night with a 65-48 win over Mesabi East in the Class AA consolation semifinals at Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia University.
TMB coach Derek Ashbaugh said the turnaround from a crushing loss to a consolation game victory literally didn’t happen overnight, but a second-straight 8 p.m. start gave the Panther players ample time to get over Wednesday and focus on the task at hand.
“You’re still at the state tournament, and if you win you still get another chance to play another day,” he said. “Motivation wasn’t too difficult. The kids went to bed upset, woke up upset and were a little irritable throughout the course of the day, but they had plenty of energy out there on the floor.”
For the second straight game against a relatively-unknown opponent, TMB got off to a roaring start, quickly grabbing a 9-2 lead. The lead hit eight before Mesabi East woke up offensively. An 11-7 Giants run cut TMB”s lead to 25-21.
The four-point lead stood up until halftime.
“There were definitely moments where things didn’t click well and we were out of sync, but they fought through that,” said Ashbaugh. “Mesabi East brings some very good players to the table and some different challenges, but I’m just super proud of our effort.”
Syd Lanoue started the second half with five straight points and scored again after grabbing two straight rebounds. That basket gave TMB a 36-20 cushion. From there, TMB played consistently on offense to prevent a hard-charging Mesabi East team from rallying to the point where it could control of the game.
The Giants seem to base their offense on the perimeter and took their chances at the three-point line against TMB. For the game, they took 19 three-point attempts. They made just four of them.
“A little bit like Roseau’s kids — you had to be willing to step out a little bit on defense,” Ashbaugh said. “Only having seen them for one night, you’re thinking, ‘OK, maybe she can (shoot), maybe she can’t.’ Our girls did a nice job of extending our defense. We wanted to be able to extend pressure at different times.”
“Defense is something we’ve really been focused on,” TMB senior guard Alecia Christian said. “They have good shooters, and we really had to focus on them.”
“We were definitely focused in on their guards,” Lanoue said. “We wanted to push them away from the basket make them go to their non-dominant hand. If they were gonna shoot three’s, which we knew they were, we just wanted to make sure they were contested at least — make it really hard for them to score the basketball.”
TMB’s advantage was sliced to six points with 12:10 to go, but a steal and layup by Kaylee Kirk ignited a 9-2 TMB run that was finished off by a big three-pointer by Sid Karbo with 9:10 left. Dolan scored six straight to build TMB’s lead to 55-42.
With under 6 minutes to go, and trailing by 13 Mesabi East began to rush things offensively and it showed. Three straight possessions resulted in turnovers — a steal by Lanoue and two traveling calls, and although the Panthers failed to convert those misses into points, precious minutes were going off the clock.
Dolan scored again after rebounding a missed free throw for a 59-44 TMB lead with 3:52 to go and after two Mesabi East baskets, the Panthers went into clock-management mode and ran the clock down to 2:20 before a foul on Kirk. Kirk made both free throws, and the Panthers capped off the win with an and-1 by Lanoue at the 1:22 mark of the game. Another free throw by Dolan capped off the scoring, and Asbaugh was able to sub in his seniors from the bench.
Kirk ended up with 13 points, six assists and five steals for TMB. If she was anything close to fatigued from a grinder of a game against Roseau the day before, she didn’t show it.
“She’s clutch, enough said,” Asbaugh said.
Dolan’s monster game included 23 points and a game-chafing 19 rebounds.
“Envy had some big moments tonight and had stretches where she did really well,” Ashbaugh said. “We had her unofficially with 18 rebounds — whatever it ends up being, that’s phenomenal.”
Don’t tell the Panthers that Thursday’s game was “just a consolation” round game. It was clear from the beginning they meant business, even if they weren’t playing at the Target Center in the Class AA semifinals.
“We just told ourselves that we don’t have very many games left and we had to give it all we’ve got,” said Christian. “We’re at the state tournament and we knew we just had to give it everything we’ve got again and have fun.”
Lanoue said her team is well aware that only a few teams are still even playing at this time of year.
“We kind of got things back into perspective — you know, there’s people that would be dying to be in the state tournament right now and we just have to take that opportunity and roll with it,” she said. “We still have the chance to end our season with a win. Every game’s important from here on out.”
The team also knew Thursday’s win was just another win. It was the first state tournament win since the Panthers’ last trip to state in 1997.
“Like Asbaugh said, that’s the first win we’ve gotten at state since last time we were here,” Lanoue said. “No matter what, it is a state game.”
Another quick start
Panther fans have seen it all year: quick starts by their team. Of course, it’s one thing to start quickly in a game in December, it’s a whole different challenge when you’re playing in March against one of the best teams in Class AA. But that’s just what the Panthers did again.
On Wednesday against Roseau, TMB opened the game with a 9-0 run, again sparked by Dolan. Then came Thursday and a quick 9-2 sport to open the game.
“We wanted to start fast and keep the momentum going,” Christian said.
They were able to do just that with timely baskets and subtle, yet big plays on defense, like the one at the 7:44 mark when Lanoue turned a Sid Karbo block into points that came during a scoring spurt by Mesabi East.
Sid’s Block party
With all the offensive weapons TMB employs, Karbo isn’t asked to score much; her contributions come at the other end of the court. Karbo’s height and length under the basket gives TMB another layer of tough defense opponents have to go through in order to score.
Karbo had four blocks in the Panthers’ tournament opener and three more against Mesabi East. She also had a total of 11 rebounds in the first two games.