For the second time in three seasons, Anoka girls’ basketball is heading to the state tournament.
The Tornadoes’ run through the Section 7AAAA tournament wasn’t quite as dramatic as the remarkable turnaround in the 2010-11 run through sections when they went to state with a 6-24 record. This time the Tornadoes were more prepared and enter the state tournament with a 20-9 record.
Anoka, the No. 2 seed, upset top-seed Forest Lake 64-60 in overtime March 8.
The Rangers won a Dec. 28 meeting at the Rogers Invite 60-40. Since then Anoka had gone 14-6 and was a different team.
“I’m just excited,” Anoka coach James Fassett said about clinching his second section title in three seasons. “When I first took over the program I never thought this would happen so fast. I’m excited for our kids and for the school.
“This win shows great development in our team, which is definitely a different team than two or three months ago.”
The effort was there and they remained focused on the game plan, according to Fassett. “Earlier this season when we were down, we just went away,” Fassett said. “But this time we hung in there and hung in there and kept playing hard. Our point guard [Abby Torgerson] came out and did some things that really worked for us.”
Torgerson, a senior who had been to the two state tournaments with Maranatha Christian Academy, said the hard work paid off. “We just played tough and hit some big shots to keep us in the game –it was a good team effort,” she said.
Forest Lake led by six at the half and extended that to as many as 15 points midway through the second half before Anoka fought back to force overtime.
Junior Claire Lundberg sparked the comeback with a three pointer from the top of the key.
She finished with a game-high 30 points, while senior guard Torgerson had 18 points. Junior Kyrah Fredenburg was the only other Anoka player to have more than eight points.
Minutes after Lundberg’s basket Fredenburg hit a turn-around jumper from the right side to pull Anoka to within one point 45-44.
Junior Ashley Bray sank a three pointer from the right corner for Anoka to retake the lead 47-45 with only minutes left.
But Forest Lake’s Bailey Norby had two three-point plays over the final 43 seconds to help send the game into overtime.
First, Norby was fouled and made the following free throw to complete the three-point play. then with 18 seconds left Eckert passed to Norby, who was waiting in the right corner. She hit a three-pointer to tie the game with 18 seconds left.
Forest Lake earned possession on a jump ball, but Frericks missed a shot in the final seconds to send the game into overtime.
Lundberg opened overtime with back-to-back baskets which gave Anoka a 56-52 lead, then went for a third-straight basket but missed. Fredenburg went up for the rebound after the miss and committed her fifth foul of the game with 2:23 to go.
Anoka never trailed in overtime as Forest Lake’s Norby fouled out 1:02 later after she hacked Torgerson, who made both free throws to make it 59-54 for Anoka, which was able to run the clock out to reach into championship celebration mode.