Rosemount’s Orr returns to sideline, but Lightning defense wins the day
The Class 4A, Section 3 girls basketball final was going to be a feel-good story regardless of the game’s outcome.
However, Rosemount coach Chris Orr, who was looking for his first varsity victory over Eastview in five years as head coach, hoped Thursday would be remembered as the night the Irish finally broke through.
That didn’t happen – Eastview won 59-49 to earn its sixth consecutive trip to the state tournament – but the fact Orr was there to see it is remarkable. Just six days earlier he suffered a heart attack while working at Rosemount High School that almost killed him. He needed to be resuscitated, and a stent was installed to open a blocked artery. Orr missed only one game, Rosemount’s section semifinal victory over Apple Valley last Saturday.
He was back on the bench Thursday for the section final at Hamline University. Orr, usually highly animated during Irish games, kept his seat for most of the section final while assistant coach Kirstee Rotty directed the Irish.
“He belongs on a basketball sideline, so I was happy he was able to be here,” said Eastview coach Molly Kasper, whose family lives in the same Rosemount neighborhood as Orr’s, and who once was Orr’s assistant coach with the Irish. “He was a lot calmer than maybe normal, but still in the same capacity. I saw him with the whiteboard,”
“Health-wise, good,” Orr said after the game when asked how he felt. “Emotionally drained, but health-wise, I’m good.”
The game got away from Rosemount in the first half, when Eastview used a 22-1 run to turn a 12-11 deficit into a 33-13 halftime lead. The final score was as close as the Irish could get in the second half.
Eastview’s defensive prowess didn’t come by accident and didn’t happen overnight, Lightning point guard Allie Pickrain said.
“At the beginning of the season I feel like we focused more on offense and outscoring teams,” said Pickrain, a senior. “Then we realized that wasn’t going to win games on our off-shooting nights. We all just bought into our defense and focused only on that because we knew the scoring was going to come along with it.”
Rosemount senior guard Maddy Olson, who averaged 19.6 points a game this season, scored 16 in the section final. Thirteen of her points came in the second half when the Irish scrambled to try to get back in the game.
“We wanted to use our height to protect the paint and keep people from getting in there – especially Maddy Olson, who wants to get in the paint and get to the free-throw line,” Kasper said. “We tried to keep her to the outside and make her take long, difficult shots.”
“We didn’t get many shots. We were very stagnant and not moving well,” Orr said. “And their defense was excellent. It wasn’t just us being bad on offense.”
Eastview (23-6) got early offense from junior forward Andrea Abrams, who scored all 11 of her points in the first seven minutes. She had three three-pointers.
Kasper said Abrams was a deadly three-point shooter in junior varsity games last season and just needed a little time to become comfortable with taking those shots in varsity games.
“The coaches telling me, ‘You can shoot it, you got it,’” Abrams said. “I started shooting better in practice and then I got more confidence in my shooting in games.”
The scoring of Megan Walstad (15 points), Rachel Ranke (14) and Pickrain (12) helped the Lightning pull away.
“When we’re sharing the ball, we’re pretty difficult to guard,” Kasper said. “Andrea had all 11 points in the first half and didn’t have to score in the second. Allie (Pickrain) had most of hers in the second half. We have a lot of different options.”
Lindsey Jalivay added 12 points for Rosemount, which finished 17-12. The Irish reached the section championship game for the third consecutive year but came away with their third consecutive runner-up trophy. Rosemount is 0-9 against Eastview the last three seasons and last defeated the Lightning in 2006.
“I’m proud of the way we finished,” Orr said. “We could have packed the bag, but we kept going after it and made them sweat a little bit, at least.”
Eastview advances to the state Class 4A quarterfinals on Tuesday. The Lightning drew the No. 4 seed and will play fifth-seeded Park Center (24-5) at noon at the Target Center.
The top two seeds in Class 4A, Hopkins and Elk River, are undefeated. Third-seeded Lakeville North beat Eastview twice during the regular season. That seems to portend a tough road ahead for Eastview, but Pickrain said the Lightning is undeterred.
“We’ve had a couple of things we’ve had to fight through,” Pickrain said, “but I love where we’re at right now. We’re playing our best basketball.”