The Warriors best season in a half dozen years came to a heartbreaking end Tuesday night in front of a raucous crowd at the Hanson Fieldhouse.
Hosting their first postseason game in more than a decade, the Waldorf women’s basketball team charged out of the gate hard, forging a 20-point lead against visiting Presentation in the teams’ first-round North Star Athletic Association playoff game.
But the Saints kept fighting, battling all the way back and spoiling the Warriors season, 79-71.
“I’m proud of how far the team came this year,” Waldorf head coach Katie Schutjer said. “The upperclassmen helped put this team on the map and laid the foundation to build off of for the future.”
The setback ends not only the year for Waldorf, but the career for four Warrior seniors – Kayley Cravens, Michaela Graffunder, Taylor Fricke and Ameh Ogbemudia.
Fricke’s season actually ended Saturday night, as she sat out Tuesday’s playoff game because of an injury.
But her teammates battled hard, as Warriors (14-12 overall) tried to ensure at least one more game for themselves, and Fricke.
Things looked very good as Waldorf led 11-5 after a Morgan Straight 3-pointer, took a 16-5 advantage on a Kinsey Tweedy layup, and held a 20-5 lead after a pair of Graffunder free throws late in the first quarter.
An Ogbemudia layup to open the second quarter spotted Waldorf to a commanding 29-9 lead, as the Warriors looked poised to roll to the victory and a spot in the NSAA final four on Saturday and Sunday in Watertown, South Dakota.
But a 10-2 run by the Saints (12-18), capped by a Tone Oglesby 3-pointer, gave life to the visitors, and they kept chipping away.
A Karly Sanchez layup closed the gap to 37-32, but the Warriors responded with seven straight, a run capped by a Graffunder steal and an Ogbemudia layup that help reestablish Waldorf’s momentum.
On top 44-35 at the break, the Warriors started the second half with another strong starting charge, pushing the lead to 51-37 on two Graffunder free throws, but the Saints just kept battling.
An Allison Cox bucket cut the difference down to 58-52 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, and with four minutes remaining in the game, a Heather Estrada free throw completed the comeback, tying the contest. 68-68.
Estrada’s freebies was part of a 13-0 run, as the Saints took their first lead of the game on two Jada Campbell free throws, and a Victoria Stewart layup put Presentation on top, 72-68, with 3 minutes to play.
Waldorf got a Graffunder field goal and a freebie from their senior, but that was all the Warriors scored in the final 7 ½ minutes, as Presentation closed out the win hitting 6-of-8 free throws in the final minute.
The win sends Presentation into the NSAA semifinals on Saturday, while it ends a determined season of success for Waldorf and seniors Cravens, Graffunder, Fricke and Ogbemudia.
Graffunder finisher her career with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the playoff game, while Ogbemudia added 13 points and four boards, and Cravens added two points and six rebounds. Straight scored 17 points and five rebounds, and Emily Haubrich added 11 points and had four rebounds for Waldorf.
Stewart led the Saints with 17 points and three steals, while Campbell scored 14, Oglesby had 10 points, and Hudelson added six points and 12 rebounds in the win.