Algona girls basketball is one game away from state after a thrilling 52-44 win over the Cherokee Washington Braves on Wednesday night at the Algona High School gymnasium.
After watching a twelve point third quarter lead evaporate, the Bulldogs turned to their sophomore class to save the day and set up a date with Estherville Lincoln Central in the regional finals. After trailing the entire game, the Braves made a big push in the back half of the third quarter and start of the fourth. A Kenna Morgan layup with 3:54 left in the game gave the Braves their first lead of the night, 41-39. Algona answered on the very next possession, as sophomore Casey VanOtterloo swished a three point ball to give the Bulldogs a one point lead back. After a 60 second timeout by Algona Head Coach Noel McLaughlin, Cherokee Washington senior Taylor Christensen drilled her first three of the night to give the Braves a 44-42 lead.
Coming out of a timeout by Cherokee Washington Head Coach Brandon Slaughter, the Bulldogs would swing the momentum 180. Algona senior Lillian Etherington came up with a steal on the Braves first possession out of the time out, and Bulldog sophomore Lauren McLaughlin buried a go ahead three pointer on the other end to give Algona a lead they ultimately would not relinquish.
McLaughlin was not done impacting the game, as she rebounded a missed free throw by Algona senior A’Lailah Perry on the front end of a one-and-one, creating an extra possession that McLaughlin would capitalize on by hitting another three to put Algona up by four. Algona spent a large chunk of the fourth quarter in the bonus, hitting free throws down the stretch to end the game on a 10-0 run.
Early in the second half, it didn’t appear as though the Bulldogs would have to sweat out a close finish, as Algona extended a three point lead at the break to a 12 point lead with a 9-0 scoring run. Bulldogs hit three pointers on three of their first four second half possessions, as VanOtterloo hit two and Etherington added another.
As was a theme throughout the game, the Braves would fight back, answering with a 9-0 run of their own coming out of a timeout by Coach Slaughter, combining a turnover-forcing defense with persistent offensive rebounding to key the run.
Algona also built an early double digit right off the bat, scoring the first 10 points of the ballgame, five coming from VanOtterloo. However, the offense would dry up for most of the remainder of the first half, as Algona dealt with the Braves full court press, taking a 22-19 lead into halftime.
Defense also proved to be a key to victory along with clutch three point shooting, as Algona held the Braves to under 26% shooting on the night and under 22% on 3s. Perry played a huge role on the defensive side of the ball, blocking several Braves shots, and frustrating ballhandlers who tried to drive to the bucket.
McLaughlin finished with 18 points to lead Algona, hitting four three pointers, while VanOtterloo added 17, with five three balls on the evening. Algona made 11 total three pointers, marking the fourth outing of 10 or more three point makes in their past six games.
Mongan led the way for Cherokee Washington, finishing with 18 points, 14 of which were in the first half. Sophomore Laney Wolfswinkel was the second leading scorer for the Braves with six points, as she led the team with 13 rebounds.
Cherokee Washington ends the season with a 12-9 record, while Algona improves to 17-6 and advances to Saturday night’s regional final, their first regional final appearance since the 2017-2018 season. The Bulldogs will visit defending class 3A state champion Estherville Lincoln Central, who cruised to a 71-17 victory over Garner Hayfield Ventura on Wednesday night in the regional semifinals. Estherville Lincoln Central defeated Algona 64-30 on November 28th, as the Midgets have won their last three matchups against the Bulldogs. You can hear Saturday night’s game starting at 6:45 P.M. with pregame coverage on KLGZ 98.5 FM/AM 1600 and the Algona Radio YouTube stream.