Benilde St. Margaret’s beats Stewartville 66-60 for Class 3A state title

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Benilde-St. Margaret’s changed the ending of the magical narrative that Stewartville was authoring this season with a 66-60 victory in the Class AAA championship game of the Minnesota State High School League’s Girls Basketball State Tournament on Saturday, March 18 at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.

Senior forward Sierre Lumpkin scored 12 of her 21 points in the second half when the Red Knights pulled away late when Stewartville appeared to be on the path of completing its first state tournament trip with a championship trophy. Junior guard Olivia Olson also had 12 points in the second half and finished with 19 as the top-seeded Red Knights (26-6) won the Class AAA crown for the first time since 2010. Benilde-St. Margaret’s, located in St. Louis Park, also was the Class AA runner-up in 1976.

Benilde-St. Margaret’s began the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the Class AAA field. It is the fourth time in state tournament history that the No. 2 seed has captured the Class AAA title. The others were Benilde-St. Margaret’s in 2010, DeLaSalle in 2013 and Park Center in 2015.

No. 4 Stewartville (29-3) had its 26-game winning streak snapped. After opening the state tournament with a victory over No. 5 Grand Rapids in the quarterfinals, the Tigers upset No. 1 Becker in the semifinals to earn a berth in the championship game. Stewartville was attempting to join Robbinsdale Cooper in 2018 as first-time state entrants to win a Class AAA championship. The Tigers were also trying to become the first Class AAA champion to represent Section 1. Instead, Stewartville is the sixth runner-up finisher from Section 1.

Stewartville erased an eight point halftime deficit by starting the second half with a flurry. The Tigers climbed into a 47-all tie when senior guard Avery Spencer made a layup and was fouled with 11:08 left in regulation. She made the awarded free throw to give the Tigers a 48-47 advantage. Stewartville couldn’t push its lead to more than three points. Meanwhile, Benilde-St. Margaret’s found its offensive rhythm in the final four minutes to pull away.

Lumpkin made a three-pointer with 2:43 left in regulation and then eighth-grader Sydney Friedly followed with a basket with 1:13 remaining in regulation and the Red Knights had reversed a deficit into a 61-56 lead, an advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.

Freshman guard Audrey Shindelar made a three-pointer just a fraction of a second prior to the horn to pull Stewartville to within 34-26 at the break. The play was reviewed and counted as good. It ended a surge for the Tigers when they trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half. Junior guard Savannah Hedin led the Tigers with eight points in the first half and finished with 17.

Olson struggled early, but found her groove and finished with seven points and seven rebounds in the first half. Lumpkin carried the Red Knights in the early going and had nine points in the first half.