South Ridge can't break Mt. Iron-Buhl


March 10, 2023

South Ridge rolled through its first two opponents in the Section 7A girls basketball playoffs, until Tuesday. That’s when the Panthers ran into No. 1 ranked Mt. Iron-Buhl in the semifinals. MIB had not lost to a Class A team all season, and the Rangers showed just how powerful they are by beating a good Panthers team 67-30 in Hibbing.

The Rangers entered the semifinals on a 17-game win streak while the Panthers came in with an impressive record of 15-3 over their past 18 games. Much of what the Rangers accomplish is aided by their tenacious full-court defensive pressure and their ability to shoot the 3-point shot.

“You just don’t see the kind of pressure they can bring any time during the season,” said Panthers head coach Brad Olesiak. “The defense is so intense, they contest every pass and they make it difficult to deal with, and that is not something you can practice against.”

Midway through the first half, the Rangers were able to cause four straight South Ridge turnovers in a matter of 30 seconds and moved a seven-point lead to a 15-point lead. From that point on, they pestered the Panthers into numerous turnovers, which resulted in easy looks at the basket and a 38-19 halftime lead.

“That was a backbreaker for us,” said Olesiak. “We were within striking distance and then we got flustered and it got away from us.”

Leading the charge on offense for the Rangers was junior Jordan Zubich, who scored 25.

“She is just a special player,” said Olesiak. “She is fast, she can shoot and she can play defense. She is just a great player.”

Mercedes Lawrence, a sophomore post player, junior swing player Kaitaia Klemetsen and senior guard Adella Olesiak led the Panthers in scoring over the first half. The turnovers proved too costly, however, and put South Ridge in a hole at halftime that they were unable to escape.

The Rangers caused 16 Panther turnovers in the first half and 14 in the second half for a total of 30. Meanwhile the Rangers turned the ball over 11 times, including seven in the first half.

“Our girls didn’t quit, but it was tough,” said Olesiak. “We had hoped to be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed so we wouldn’t have to face them in the semis, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Joining Zubich in double-digit figure scoring was Sage Ganyo, the Rangers’ lone senior, with 15 points.

Lawrence and Olesiak both scored 11 points for the Panthers, Klemetsen added six and Svea Snickers scored two. South Ridge finishes the season with an impressive 22-7 record and will graduate four seniors: Adella Olesiak, Rylee Young, Kaitlyn Kempffer-Berg and Morgan Dertinger.

“It will be tough to lose those kids,” Olesiak said. “They are all great kids and they will be missed. I am proud of the season we put together. We got a win over Cromwell and we got to the semifinals of the section, so we are proud of what the girls did.”

The win improved the MIB record to 26-3 and put them in the section championship Friday, March 10 against Cromwell Wright, which defeated Ely 53-43.


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