After ending the regular season with a lopsided defeat at the hands of Mississippi 8 champion, St. Michael-Albertville, the Monticello girls basketball team was in need of some good vibes as they begin their postseason push.
They found plenty on Tuesday night.
Monticello, the top seed in Section 5AAA, jumped out to a 55-13 halftime lead on their way to a 78-32 victory over St. Cloud Apollo in the quarterfinal round of section play.
“We went in and we took care of business,” said Magic coach Craig Geyen.
The game was highlighted by Monticello’s defense, transition offense and Emily Gruber’s 1,000 point, which came in the second half of the victory.
It started with defense.
After falling behind 3-2 on an early Apollo three-pointer, Monticello locked the Eagles down, forcing a combination of missed shots and turnovers through much of the first half.
The Eagles scored just one point over the next three minutes. Grace Sawatzke scored nine during that stretch, and Monticello pushed it’s lead to 16-4.
Five more minutes of stingy defense allowed another single point to the Eagles, as the Magic lead grew to 22-5 halfway into the first half.
The next five minute stretch saw Monticello give up just two more points, while the offense heated up, thanks to a spark from Christine Lui.
The senior guard poured in nine quick points off the bench, pushing Monticello’s lead all the way up to 45-7 with four minutes left in the first half.
Two three-pointers from St. Cloud in the final minutes kept the Eagles in that range, despite a couple more baskets from Sawatzke, who finished the half with 16 points.
Gruber, who scored 10 points in the first half, came back out in the second half and put up eight quick points, eclipsing the 1,000 point mark with over 11 minutes to go in the game on a basket in the painted area.
Following that milestone, the Magic went to the bench for the remainder of the game, as they cruised to a convincing victory.
For the game, Sawatzke and Gruber each scored 18 points, while Lui added 14.
Gruber also pulled down eight rebounds while blocking six shots. Sawatzke grabbed seven rebounds of her own, dished out eight assists and recorded four steals during the game. Gabby Laimer picked up a game-high five steals to go with her nine points.
Monticello, the two-time defending section champion, now moves to the section semifinal round where they’ll take on fifth-seeded Becker.
The Bulldogs upset Zimmerman, 64-54, Tuesday night.
Monticello and Becker played earlier this year with the Magic taking a 37-19 halftime lead on their way to a 66-52 victory at Becker.
Gruber and Sawatzke led the way in that game, with each scoring 24 points.
The semifinal game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at Buffalo High School.
The winner will move on to the section final where they’ll take on the winner of Orono vs. Delano (Sat., 7:30 p.m. at BHS) next Friday night, also at Buffalo High School.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com