Mountain Iron-Buhl beats BOLD 52-21 for first Girls State Basketball Tournament championship
Mountain Iron-Buhl has been the top seed for the Class A field in the Minnesota State High School League’s Girls Basketball three times. In the two previous state tournament trips with that label, the Rangers didn’t return to the Iron Range with a state championship trophy. That narrative changed on Saturday, March 18 at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
The top-seeded Rangers proved worthy of top billing in posting a 52-21 victory over No. 3 BOLD in the Class A championship game. Junior guard Jordan Zubich paced a balanced attack with 15 points as Mountain Iron-Buhl not only captured its first state championship in girls basketball, but also brought notoriety to Section 7A. The Rangers are the first girls basketball state champion from Section 7 since Chisolm in 1984. Barnum, a current member of Section 7, won the Class A title in 2010, but at that time, the Bombers were residents of Section 5.
In completing its historic championship season, the Rangers (30-3) finished on a 22-game winning streak. Prior to starting the spree, Mountain Iron-Buhl had consecutive losses to Crosby-Ironton, which both qualified for the Class AA state tournament. Providence was to Albany for the Class AA crown following the Rangers’ championship win.
Mountain Iron-Buhl trailed early, 4-0, and didn’t score until Zubich made a free throw with just more three minutes elapsed. That was the start of a 15-0 run that established Mountain Iron-Buhl’s dominance in sprinting to a state crown. Numerous runs would follow as the Rangers would never trail by fewer than eight points. Instead, the lead continued to grow.
Junior guard Gabby Lira chipped in 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Junior guard Hali Savela also had 10 points to go with nine rebounds.
Mountain Iron-Buhl built a 32-15 advantage after the first half behind 10 points from Zubich. She was 3 of 8 from the field and made 3 of 3 free throws. Her lone three-pointer of the first half gave the Rangers a 27-13 lead with five minutes remaining in the first half. Eighth-grade guard Anna Neyens added a three-pointer with two minutes left to stretch the lead to 30-15. Junior guard Hali Savela ended the Rangers’ first-half spree with a baseline drive.
Sophomore guard Lainey Braulick led the Warriors (26-6) with eight points and five rebounds. BOLD was attempting to become the first Section 2 champion in the four-class state tournament format. The last Section 2 champion was Storden-Jeffers in 1989. Storden-Jeffers is now part of Red Rock Central.