Eastview girls return to section final

A familiar opponent blocks Eastview’s path to a sixth consecutive state girls basketball tournament appearance.

Kierra Walker of Eastview looks for an open teammate during the Lightning's 75-28 playoff victory over Eagan on March 1. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy
Kierra Walker of Eastview looks for an open teammate during the Lightning’s 75-28 playoff victory over Eagan on March 1. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

The Lightning, which routed Eagan and Hastings in the first two rounds of the Class 4A, Section 3 playoffs, faces Rosemount for the section championship at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hamline University.

This is the third consecutive year Eastview and Rosemount have met for the section championship. Counting regular-season South Suburban Conference games, it will be the ninth game between the teams in the last three years. Eastview has won the previous eight.

Eastview coach Molly Kasper has observed the rivalry from both benches. She was an assistant coach at Rosemount before becoming Eastview’s head coach in 2015. She expects the Irish to be supercharged emotionally after their coach, Chris Orr, suffered a heart attack Friday while teaching at Rosemount High School. Quick action by fellow staff members was credited with saving Orr’s life. He was released from the hospital Saturday and might be at the section championship game. The Irish upset No. 2-seeded Apple Valley 61-58 in the section semifinals Saturday.

“Rosemount has always been well coached, especially on the defensive end,” Kasper said. “They trap very well, and I think they will try to keep the game low-scoring.”

Eastview defeated Rosemount 45-34 and 54-37 in two regular-season games.

The Lightning (22-6) also has improved its defense. After squandering a 16-point second-half lead at Lakeville North on Feb. 21 and losing in overtime, the team closed the regular-season with a 70-49 victory at Apple Valley. Eastview breezed to victories over Eagan (75-28) and Hastings (61-25) in the first two rounds of the section playoffs.

“If we play defense, we have a chance to win even on nights when we don’t shoot well,” Kasper said.

Eastview put the game out of reach early against Hastings, taking a 36-12 halftime lead. The one-sided score allowed Eastview to use a lot of players, and 10 of them scored. Guards Allie Pickrain (16 points), Rachel Ranke (11) and Macy Guebert (10) reached double figures.

The Lightning has a diversified offense with Pickrain driving to the basket, and Ranke and Andrea Abrams shooting three-pointers. And, “Megan Walstad is a very good low-post scorer,” Kasper said. “I think we can force other teams into some tough decisions because you can’t take away everybody.”

The Eastview-Rosemount section final assures the South Suburban Conference of having at least one team in the state Class 4A tournament. It could be two if Lakeville North beats Rochester Mayo in the Section 1 final, also on Thursday night.