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Tom Mix, Published March 11 2014

Squirrels rally for Region 1 girls basketball tournament win

WAHPETON, N.D. – Central Cass had a nightmarish start Tuesday night, the kind that if the Squirrels didn’t wake up from, they would be left out of the North Dakota Class B, Region 1 girls basketball championship.

Central Cass awoke and put together a second-half comeback to edge Fargo Oak Grove 41-40 in the semifinals at Ed Werre Arena.

The No. 8-ranked Squirrels trailed 29-13 two minutes into the second half, but answered with a 15-6 run to close out the third quarter.

“We started slow the first half, and we knew we would have to come back stronger in the second half,” said senior center Faith Dooley, who finished with 14 points and eight blocked shots. “We talked about that at halftime, and we definitely played a lot stronger.”

With the victory, Central Cass (21-3) advances to its seventh consecutive Region 1 championship game. The Squirrels play Fairmount-Campbell-Tintah for a trip to the state tournament at approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Ed Werre Arena. Oak Grove (16-8) plays Maple Valley at 6 p.m. Thursday in the third-place game.

“I know my team, and I know we can comeback when we are down like that,” Dooley said. “We just had to play our game and figure out a way to come back.”

With 2 minutes, 17 seconds remaining, Central Cass senior guard Abigail Cramer got a shot to fall to tie the game 38-38. Almost a minute later, Cramer made a play that would give the Squirrels their first lead since early in the first quarter.

Cramer intercepted a pass at halfcourt, and drove the ball to the basket for a layup. The large deficit had finally been overcome and the Squirrels led 40-38.

“I planned on taking it right to the hole,” Cramer said. “You can’t second-guess yourself on those. You just have to go for it.”

Oak Grove jumped out to a 16-7 lead after the first quarter and led 23-13 at halftime.

Seniors Rachel Osmundson and Tatum Holt each posted six points in the first half.

“We needed to get out of the gates, and we did,” Oak Grove head coach Mike Forsberg said. “We actually started the second half really well, too.”

Cramer, who scored a game-high 16 points, split a pair of free throws with 3.7 seconds left to give the Squirrels a 41-38 advantage.

The Grovers had one last chance for the tie and put the ball in the hands of Osmundson, who attempted a half-court shot. The shot was short, but Cramer was called for a foul on Osmundson, sending her to the free-throw line for three shots with half a second remaining.

Osmundson missed the first free throw, but sunk the final two.

“I don’t know if we could have played any better,” Forsberg said. “We defended Faith (Dooley) really well and we had a few looks in the fourth quarter that just didn’t go down.”

OG 16 23 35 40

CC 7 13 28 41

OAK GROVE (16-8): Holt 5 0-0 10, Osmundson 3 2-3 11, Cain 1 0-0 5, Bokinskie 1 2-2 4, Kelley 5 0-2 10, Sharpe 1 0-0 3. Totals: 16-56 4-7 40.

CENTRAL CASS (21-3): Cramer 6 2-8 16, Goettle 1 0-0 2, Dooley 6 2-5 14, Camas 2 0-4 4, Romsdal 1 3-4 5. Totals: 16-47 7-21 41.

3-point goals: Cramer 2, Osmundson 3, Sharpe. Total fouls: OG 18, CC 9. Rebounds: OG 43 (Cain 9), CC 39 (Goettle, Dooley, Cramer 7). Turnovers: OG 11, CC 14.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562