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Cards clipped in Section 7A final

For the second straight year and third time in the last five seasons, Mountain Iron-Buhl ended the Cromwell-Wright girls basketball team's hopes of advancing to the Minnesota Class A State tournament. At the final buzzer of Friday night's Section 7A final, the scoreboard read 67-38 in favor of the No. 1 ranked team in the state.

The Rangers scored the first 10 points of the contest before Cardinal sophomore Siiena Anderson laid in her only two points of the game to cut the MIB advantage to 10-2. By the end of the first half, MIB had amassed a 33-20 lead at the break.

The second half began with several Ranger turnovers and a chance for Cromwell to get back in the game, but the Cards couldn't close the gap before MIB tightened up defensively and went on to score 26 of the game's next 32 points to break the game wide open.

"MIB had great defensive energy that made it hard for us to score," said Cromwell-Wright head coach Jeff Gronner. "We competed very hard, at the level that we needed to. It comes down to MIB executing better than us to get shots."

MIB junior and University of North Carolina commit Jordan Zubich led all scorers with 22 points, including five of the Rangers 12 three-pointers. Senior Sage Ganyo, one of only two seniors playing in the game - the other being the Cardinals' Sascha Korpela - added 16 points, while eighth grader Anna Neyens came off the bench for an impressive 14 points on four threes. The largest Ranger lead of the night was 33 and the end point differential was 29.

Korpela led the Cards with a 19-point balanced effort in her final game in a Cromwell-Wright girls basketball uniform, scoring one of the team's four triples. All other Cromwell scorers were in single digits. The Cardinals were 4-for-10 from the line, while MIB went 5-for-8 from the line.

Cromwell-Wright's season came to end at 24-6, while MIB improved to 27-3. The Rangers will take a 19-game win streak into the opening round of this week's state tourney, where they took on Minneota in the quarterfinals Thursday, after this issue went to press.

Even though his team came up short in the section final, Gronner's message to his team was upbeat.

"I said, 'We had a great season, nothing to be ashamed about. We came one win away from our goal, but we just happen to have the No. 1 team in the state in our section,'" he said.

As for next season, all of the team is returning, with the exception of Korpela, which gives Gronner hope they will be back for another run.

"Sascha will definitely be missed next year," he said. "We do get Kyra Granholm back next year as well, so with our core returners and Kyra, expectations will be high again."

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