By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
The Faith Christian School girls basketball team didn’t finish on top at the Christian Athletic League Tournament in Mankato last week.
But, the Saints played some of their best basketball of the season as they went 1-2 and placed fourth. Last season FCS won consolation honors to place fifth.
Faith Christian opened with a 50-46 win over Hope Christian Academy of St. Paul Park in the opening round Thursday, then lost to Rochester Area Home School 54-50 in the semifinals Friday.
On Saturday, FCS battled Christian Life of Farmington to the wire before losing 47-46 in the third-place game.
“It was a very good tournament for us,” said FCS Coach Mike Sohre. “We went in seeded No. 4 and came within two points of finishing as the No. 3 team.
“Our final game against Christian Life was perhaps our best game of the season. We lost to them by 27 points three weeks ago but we were ready for them this time. The girls made a clear statement that we are now not only knocking on the door of the upper tier teams in the CAL but we are sticking our foot in the door.”
The Saints trailed Christian Life 27-22 at halftime and, despite running into serious foul trouble, kept battling back in the second half, outscoring Christian Life 24-20.
“Our full-court press raised some eyebrows and our switching back and forth from a 3-2 zone to a 2-3 zone kept Christian Life off balance,” said Sohre. “Despite the foul trouble we were in position to win the game at the end.”
The Saints lost starters senior guard Mariah Roelofs, junior center Jamie Nelson and sophomore center Karly Wiek via fouls.
Roelofs scored 15 points while Nelson had 12 points and eight rebounds and senior forward Alison Bechtle and Wiek each had eight points and nine rebounds. Senior guard Jadyn Grev also pulled down nine rebounds as the Saints had a 51-32 edge in rebounds.
In their tourney opener against Hope, Faith Christian got a measure of revenge. Hope defeated FCS by 20 points two weeks ago.
“Our new press caught them off guard and allowed us to go up by 15 points at halftime,” said Sohre. “Then, we held them off in the second half.
Grev sank five three-point shots and totaled 18 points while Nelson had 12 points and Bechtle had six points and 11 rebounds. Roelofs added eight points and had seven assists while junior guard Madde Brown had four points and seven rebounds.
In the semifinals, Rochester, seeded No. 1 with a 24-2 record, surged to a 31-11 halftime lead.
“We played about as well as we could against a very tall and talented team,” said Sohre.
Roelofs had 10 points while Bechtle grabbed 12 rebounds and Wiek had eight rebounds.
Nelson and Roelofs were named to the all-tournament team and Nelson was named to the all-league squad and Roelofs received all-league honorable mention honors.