It had been five years since the Colfax girls’ basketball team competed in a sectional final.
After defeating Cameron last Thursday in a 2-point, buzzer-beating thriller, the Vikings moved on to the WIAA Division 4 sectional final to face the undefeated Melrose-Mindoro Mustangs for the right to go to the state tournament.
But it just wasn’t in the cards for Colfax this year. On Saturday at River Falls High School, the Mustang squad — which averages 70 points a game — commanded a 52-31 victory over the Vikings for the sectional title and to continue their season in Madison.
Colfax coach Joe Doucette said he knew Melrose-Mindoro was going to be a tough team to face, especially considering they have won 46 out of their last 47 games.
“We tried hard, but just could not score or get anything going on offense,” he remarked. “I thought we defended pretty well against a team with a lot of weapons, but again they were great defensively inside, blocking a lot of shots.”
The Mustangs galloped out of the gate for a pair of doubles and a pair of triples to start things off. Kameri Meredith hit a big shot from downtown for the Viking’s first three points to trail the Mustangs 11-3 just under six minutes in.
Colfax’s Alyssa Dachel and Savannah Henricks each drained a triple before Melrose-Mindoro pounded the paint for four more inside baskets and one freebie. The Mustangs held the Vikings off the board with a string of blocked shots, but Meredith went to the charity stripe for two points to make it a nine-point game at 20-11 with 1:07 left.
The Mustangs retained ball control for the remaining minute of the first half and drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key just as time expired for a 23-11 halftime advantage.
The Vikings came back to the court to hold the Mustangs off the scoreboard for the first four and a half minutes of the second half. Colfax’s Emma Hurlburt scored her first two points — and the first field goal of the game for the Vikings — with a basket off a third offensive rebound.
Henricks added one more point after being fouled on a drive down the baseline, and Meredith scored a 2-pointer off a quick inbound play, slashing the Mustang’s lead down to seven at 23-16 with plenty of time left.
But a Melrose-Mindoro timeout interrupted Colfax’s momentum, and the Mustangs came back to the court to score the next six points to lift back up into a double digit lead. Meredith broke the Mustang’s run with a double off her own rebound, but Melrose-Mindoro hit two big 3-pointers for a now 20-point advantage, 38-18 with 8:34 on the clock.
The Viking’s next six points came from the free throw line, four from Henricks and two from Meredith, but the Mustangs continued to break through traffic for four more field goals accompanied by three freebies.
With a commanding 48-24 lead and with time dwindling down, both teams brought out their secondary players for some playoff action. With 3:00 to go and both teams in foul bonus, Colfax’s Saville Wilson earned a pair of trips to the free throw line where she connected on all four shots.
The Mustang’s second-string players threw in for a pair of 2-pointers before time expired, but Colfax’s Marissa Harmon hit the final basket of the game from the arc to finish out the Viking’s 2017-18 season.
“They are a much better team than us,” coach Doucette said of Melrose-Mindoro. “They are big, physical and talented with their top five all having college offers. We needed to play our A-game and we couldn’t do that.”
Though Colfax struggled to contend offensively with Melrose-Mindoro, their fearless defense held the Mustangs to nearly 20 points less than their season average.
Meredith led in scoring for the Vikings with 11 points, connecting for two doubles, one triple and four of her five freebies. The sophomore also came up with 10 rebounds, including three offensive grabs.
Henricks wrapped up her final game of the year with eight points. She threw in for one 3-pointer and went 5-for-8 on free throws.
Wilson came off the bench for four charity points, Harmon and Dachel each added one 3-pointer and Hurlburt chipped in two points.
The Vikings went 13-for-17 at the line while the Mustangs shot 6-for-12.
“It was a good experience for us, really a good atmosphere these last three games,” Doucette commented on their playoff games. “Our fans were great and we hate to disappoint so many ... but we tried and would love to improve. We hope to get back next year with a better team.”