The Northfield Raiders used efficient offense to pull away from the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks in a 64-54 Class 3A State Girls Basketball Semifinal Game today at the Target Center.  The Raiders were the #2 seed and will play top seed and top ranked Robbinsdale Cooper Saturday at 6:00 p.m. on KDHL.

Northfield was ranked 4th in the final Minnesota Basketball News poll.  The Cooper Hawks defeated Willmar 65-54 to improve their record to 28-2.  Northfield is 27-3.  Robbinsdale Cooper is riding a 21 game winning streak.  The Hawks only losses have been to Hopkins (95-68) and Centennial (75-57).

The Raiders only losses have been to Owatonna (54-41), Eastview of Apple Valley (60-52) and Beaver Dam, Wisconsin (61-48).

Northfield 5’9 senior Grace Touchette was the only Raider in double figures with 21 points and added 6 rebounds and 6 assists in 31 minutes.  Touchette was 7 of 8 from the free throw line.

The Thunderhawks were up 47-40 with 11:49 left and it didn’t look good for the Raiders but Grand Rapids appeared to run out of gas.  Their last lead was 51-50 with 7:34 to go.

Northfield closed the game with a 14-3 run as the Raiders showed they were the more versatile and deeper team.  Nine Northfield players scored and only four Grand Rapids.

Raider Annika Hoff made life inside tough for the Thunderhawks with 4 blocks in the game and teammates Rachel Kelly and Touchette had a pair of blocks in the game for a total of 8.  Grand Rapids loves to shoot threes and had 4 connections in the first half on 13 attempts.  In the second half they were 5 of 17.

Northfield shot 56% and Grand Rapids 27% for the game.

Going into the game the Northfield Hospital and Clinics key for the Raiders was rebounds because the Thunderhawks are a very good rebounding team.  Northfield led the battle of the boards 39-34.

I have to say if you would’ve told me before the game that Grand Rapids would have 17 offensive rebounds I would have said they probably won.

Northfield had 14 turnovers and the Thunderhawks 6 in the game.

The stat of the game was the 36-14 advantage in the Professional Pride Realty of Northfield paint for the Raiders.   Northfield has the 6’3 Hoff and 6’0 Kelly who start, but they also have 6’1 Emma Carlson and 6’1 Annalee Olson-Sola coming off the bench.

My opinion is, tempo will be the Northfield Hospital and Clinics key in the State Title game against Robbinsdale Cooper.  If the Raiders can keep it a half court game then I like their chances.

The Hawks have no girls over 6’0 tall but 5’10 freshman Kierra Wheeler is a force on the glass averaging 9.3 rebounds per game.  5’7 junior Aja Wheeler is the team’s leading scorer (14.0 per game).

Robbinsdale Cooper shared the ball well in their win with 14 assists (they average 7 assists per game).

This is Coopers first state trip and Northfield’s third.  The Raiders best finish was second in 1979 when they lost 55-46 to St. Paul Central in the title game.

Northfield Raiders Applaud Their Crowd Thursday at Target Center. Photo by Jim Wellbrock
Northfield's Grace Touchette Had 21 Points. Photo by Jim Wellbrock
Northfield's Rachel Kelly is shooting. Photo by Jim Wellbrock