Sixth-seeded Harrisburg bounces defending champion O'Gorman from 'AA' girls state tournament

Tigers hold 3rd-seeded Knights to 32 percent shooting for upset win

Harrisburg players rush the court in celebration after defeating O'Gorman in the first round of the 'AA' girls state basketball tournament on Thursday, March 9, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

SIOUX FALLS - The Harrisburg Tigers delivered the first upset of the Class AA girls state basketball tournament on Thursday, knocking off defending state champion and third-seeded O'Gorman 53-41 at the Sanford Pentagon.

Sadie Mehrman had 21 points to lead the way in a win that was convincing, well-earned and impressive in its totality. Sixth-seeded Harrisburg (17-5) took control early and maintained it most of the way, outshooting the Knights, outworking them on defense and showing impressive poise when O'Gorman (17-5) made a run.

The Tigers hit big shots at the end of the second and third quarters to go into those breaks with extra breathing room, but more importantly, they didn't make the same mistakes they did the last time the teams played, a 49-43 Knights win during the regular season.

Harrisburg had control of that one, too, leading by eight points in the fourth quarter, only to give it away because they were unable to handle the Knights pressure defense, or get a rebound after a stop.

That might have been why, even when the Tigers lead reached double digits in the fourth quarter of this one, they showed no indication they felt their lead was safe.


Harrisburg's Kayleigh Hybertson tries to pass the ball while O'Gorman's Aweng Akoi defends in the second quarter of Thursday's 'AA' girls state tournament game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

A 3-pointer by Abigail Flanagan - her only basket of the game - with 2:20 to go gave Harrisburg a 43-34 lead, at which point the Knights were probably cooked, but the Tigers kept going, pushing the advantage to double digits on a Hannah Eide basket with 90 seconds left. The lead got as high as 16 in the final minute, but the Tigers still celebrated like they'd needed a buzzer-beater to win.

"We took care of the basketball," said coach Nick Mayer, whose team is pursuing its first 'AA' championship. "Last time we played them we had 18 turnovers. Tonight we had eight. That was the focus all week in practice and I'm just proud of how our kids handled that pressure."

Harrisburg's Adelynn Wagner (2) dribbles while guarded by O'Gorman's Sydney Terveen (left) during the first quarter of Thursday's 'AA' girls state tournament basketball game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

Cutting turnovers to that degree obviously goes a long way towards a win. But it wasn't just that. Mehrman was lethal, making all three of her attempts from downtown, getting to the line and going 8-for-8 there and making 5-of-6 shots from the floor overall. That's right, she got her 21 points on six shots. Eide hit a pair of 3s herself (the Tigers were 7-of-13 from outside the arc) while adding 10 rebounds to her 13 points, and Kayleigh Hybertson had nine points in an energetic 26 minutes of work.

Harrisburg's Makinley Lawrenson tries to back down to the basket against the defense of O'Gorman's Kira Mentele during the second quarter of Thursday's 'AA' girls state tournament game at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

They all contributed to a defense that held O'Gorman to 32 percent shooting. The Knights were just 4-of-18 from distance and attempted just six free throws to the Tigers' 20. The Knights had 12 offensive rebounds and that did give them some crucial second chances, but they didn't capitalize on enough of them.

"We defended great," Mayer said. "Every shot was contested."

Mahli Abdouch led the Knights with 12 points and four assists but was just 5-of-14 from the floor. Lucy Moore had 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Forward Kira Mentele, OG's second-leading scorer, committed three first half fouls and was limited to 14 minutes as a result.

O'Gorman coach Kent Kolsrud gestures for his team to move the ball up the floor during the first quarter of a 'AA' girls state tournament basketball game against Harrisburg at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

Trailing by six at half, the Knights made their move in the third quarter, briefly taking the lead, but they couldn't sustain their momentum, and when Makinley Lawrenson hit a 3 before the end of the quarter to put the Tigers back up by five heading to the fourth, it felt like it was just Harrisburg's night.

"The kids deserve the credit," said Mayer, whose team faces Pierre in Friday's semifinals. "We made some adjustments and did some different things, but ultimately it's the kids making plays. I'm really proud of how we executed tonight. We've got another tough one tomorrow but we'll be focused and ready to go."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, began a long career in amateur baseball and started working as a sports freelancer. Zimmer was hired as a sport reporter at the Argus Leader in 2004, where he covered Sioux Falls high schools and colleges before moving to the South Dakota State University beat in 2014.
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