Girls basketball: Tough day for BOLD

Mar. 18—MINNEAPOLIS — The three-seed BOLD girls basketball team jumped out to an early lead against top-seed Mountain Iron-Buhl. But the Warriors struggled mightily shooting the ball the rest of the game, making six more field goals.

Those offensive struggles led to a dominating 52-21 victory for Mountain Iron Buhl in the Class A state championship at Williams Arena.

Saturday's championship win marks the first Class A title in Mountain Iron-Buhl girls basketball history. It's also the first time an Iron Range girls basketball team won a state tournament since Chisholm won in 1984.

"I'm very proud of the success of our program," MIB coach Jeff Buffetta said. "I just think back over the last 13 years and our 12 trips here of all the assistant coaches and all the players we've had that have dedicated all the time and showed these guys about what it's like to show up everyday and put in the work. It was just awesome to see (this group) finish it off."

BOLD shot 8 of 46 from the field, 17.4%, in the contest, made one 3-pointer on 18 attempts, 5.6%, and had four makes on 10 free throw attempts, 40%. The Rangers held the Warriors to six points in the second half.

"That obviously didn't go quite how we wanted, but that's the game of basketball," BOLD head coach Brian Kingery said. "Sometimes you just can't put the ball in the hoop, and today, we didn't."

BOLD opened up the contest with its triangle-and-two defense and focused on taking Jordan Zubich, who's committed to the University of North Carolina, and Sage Ganyo out of the equation.

But, Mountain Iron-Buhl junior guard Hali Savela hit a 3-pointer with 14:12 remaining in the first half, She then notched a layup off a pass by Zurich at 13:09 to give the Rangers a 7-4 lead. It forced the Warriors to adjust to a man-to-man defense.

Yet it didn't matter. Mountain Iron-Buhl took a 32-15 lead into halftime. The Rangers out-scored BOLD 20-6 in the final 18 minutes to cement the victory.

"We told each other that we have to keep our composure and the first five minutes (of the second half) are the most important," said Savela, who finished with 10 points. "That really worked for us."

"It means the world," Ganyo said. "This has been my dream since I was in the womb and just to have it come true, this means so much. I'm just so proud (of the team)."

For 5-foot-11 Zubich, she follows in her brother's footsteps. Her brother, Asher Zubich, was quarterback for the Mountain Iron-Buhl football team to its first state title in program history on Dec. 3, 2022.

"My family, they always come to support," Zubich said. "Looking over at my brother and my dad, you can just tell they've experienced this feeling. They are so happy for me and happy for the team. It's a real surreal moment for my family and this (Mountain-Iron Buhl) family."

BOLD finishes the season with a 26-6 record. The Warriors defeated four ranked teams to reach the state championship.

"It was an incredible run and I'm very proud of them," Kingery said. "The biggest thing I'm proud about is they've been together the whole time. ... They've been a great family."

The Warriors beat No. 2 Mayer Lutheran and No. 3 Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart in Section 2A-North play, defeated No. 18 Sleepy Eye in the Section 2A championship and stormed past No. 4 Hayfield in the Class A semifinals.

"Coming out of our subsection is difficult as it is," BOLD junior forward Kenzie Visser said. "To just make it to state was an honor. But to make it all the way to the championship was a dream."

BOLD's top scorers were guards Lainey Braulick with eight points and Mari Ryberg with five.

Ryberg, a 5-11 senior, has been a part of the BOLD varsity program since eighth grade. She will soon attend Division III University of Wisconsin-River Falls to continue her basketball career and begin her path to becoming an elementary school teacher.

"I couldn't be more proud of her as a basketball player. But more importantly as a person," Kingery said. "She's going to be one of them that makes a difference in kids' lives down the road."

BOLD's appearance at the state tournament marks its third in program history. The Warriors previously made the tournament in 2013 and 2019.

"You have to appreciate each moment that you're given and these opportunities don't come by all the time," Kingery said. "I'm not disappointed with our girls. I'm proud of our girls."

BOLD (26-6) 32 20 — 21

Mountain Iron-Buhl (30-3) 15 6 — 52

BOLD — Scoring: Lainey Braulick 8, Mari Ryberg 5, Kenzie Visser 4, Lily Dean 2, Layla Pfarr 2 ... 3-point shots: Braulick 1 ... Rebound leader: Ryberg 10 ... Assist leader: Braulick 2 ... Steal leader: Braulick 2, Ryberg 2 ... Block leader: Visser 1, Ryberg 1

MOUNTAIN IRON-BUHL — Scoring: Jordan Zubich 15, Gabby Lira 10, Hali Savela 10, Sage Ganyo 9, Anna Neyens 6, Kate Nelson 2 ... 3-point shots: Savela 2, Zubich 2, Neyens 2, Ganyo 1 ... Rebound leader: Lira 13 ... Assist leader: Ganyo 6 ... Steal leader: Savela 2, Zubich 2 ... Block leader: Zubich 2