Goodhue turns to its stars in holding off hard-charging Underwood in state semifinals

Mar. 15—MINNEAPOLIS — Goodhue knew exactly where to turn — to its defense, rebounding and stars Elisabeth Gadient and Kendyl Lodermeier.

The No. 1-seeded Wildcats got a serious push in both the first and second halves from No. 4 Underwood on Friday afternoon in the Class 1A girls basketball tournament semifinals. That added up to a seven-point Rockets lead in the former, and a narrowing of a 10-point Goodhue halftime lead to four points in the second half.

Goodhue knew exactly what to do: Take its customary full-court flying-around defense up a notch, crash the boards and let Gadient and Lodermier take over the scoring. It worked, both times.

The result was a 63-53 Goodhue win at the University of Minnesota's Williams Arena and a spot in the noon championship game Saturday.

There, No. 1 ranked-Goodhue will be looking to win its third state title under 16th-year coach Josh Wieme. It faces No. 2 seed Mountain Iron-Buhl.

"Well, that's the goal at the beginning of the year, to make it to the state title game," Wieme said. "And that's where we are at. It wasn't easy. And I don't know what we were expecting going in, necessarily. But I give our kids a lot of credit for getting down early and not panicking. We made just enough plays to give ourselves a little bit of a (halftime) cushion. But I give Underwood a lot of credit because they confused us."

It was no secret that Underwood could play. The Rockets knocked off No. 2-ranked Hancock in the teams' section championship. Underwood also has a nice arsenal of talent, led by All-State point guard Elizabeth Lukken.

The Rockets are a tad undersized, but they proved to Goodhue that they can shoot, handle the ball and play defense.

"Yeah, I think they were just about as quick as we are," said Goodhue's biggest star, 5-foot-11 point guard Elisabeth Gadient. "They are definitely one of the fastest teams we've played and they really push the ball up the court."

About 8 minutes into the contest, Underwood had done things well enough to have built a surprising 20-13 lead.

But as mentioned, these Wildcats aren't the panicking types. Instead, they are the get-busy types. They are also the ultra-confident types, helped in that direction by senior Gadient and junior Lodermeier.

Gadient is a two-time All-State player and Lodermeier was named All-State this season. They are also unafraid, and that includes when staring at a seven-point deficit in the state semifinals.

"Those two are very important to us," said up-and-coming Goodhue sophomore forward Natalie Thomforde. "They are the leaders of our team. They have shown all of us younger kids how to play."

They taught them well enough that Goodhue regrouped around its swarming full-court defense, better shooting and rebounding to turn that seven-point deficit to a 34-23 halftime advantage.

Lukken was asked how exhausting it is to go against Goodhue's non-stop pressing defense.

Her answer was succinct.

"Very," she offered with a half smile.

That Goodhue burst was started by a Lola Christianson 3-pointer. Then came six points from Lodermeier and nine from Gadient. There was also a rash of Underwood turnovers thanks to Goodhue's vaunted defense.

Goodhue had finished the half on a 21-3 scoring run.

"We always seem to have a few of those scoring runs in us," Wieme said with a smile.

Then there was another surge waiting from Goodhue midway through the second half, answering another Underwood charge.

As was true of the first half, Gadient and Lodermeier helped bail the Wildcats out with more stellar play again just when it mattered most. Underwood had surged midway the second half and narrowed Goodhue's lead to four points with 10 minutes remaining.

It became Gadient's and Lodermeier's time again. Lodermeier scored 10 of her 16 points from that point on. Gadient had eight of hers then, including twice burying both ends of crucial 1-and-1 free throw chances in the final 2 minutes.

Gadient, who will play next year at Division II Minnesota State University, Mankato, finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Lodermeier, a 6-foot junior forward, added 11 rebounds and four steals to her totals.

As a team, Goodhue forced 15 Underwood turnovers and had 12 offensive rebounds, compared to six of the latter for Underwood.

Those were all winning numbers for the Wildcats. Now, they hope they can win more time. The state championship game is next.

Complete box score: Goodhue 63, Underwood 53