Local girls hoops teams fall at sections

The Armstrong girls basketball team hoped to be able to cap its 2016-17 season with success in the Section 6AAAA tournament.

Sierra Lynch brings the ball up the court during Cooper’s 66-44 loss to Wayzata March 4. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)
Sierra Lynch brings the ball up the court during Cooper’s 66-44 loss to Wayzata March 4. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)

The Falcons began the Northwest Suburban Conference-West Division season with a 3-3 record, but a 5-1 record in Armstrong’s final six conference games gave the team hope.

“It took us a little while to jell, a little longer than we anticipated at the start of the year,” Armstrong head girls basketball coach Antiwan Easley said. “We had some injuries, as well as some illness, where we had some key people out at points in the season.

“We really didn’t know who we were going to have from practice to practice or from game to game.”

Armstrong played Minneapolis South in the section quarterfinals March 1, and the Falcons could not overcome a 23-13 first half deficit, as they fell 44-39 to end their season.

“They got off to a good start and we were never able to dictate the tempo like we wanted to,” Easley said. “We really wanted to play an up-paced game, but it was a slow game.

“We got it going in the second half, but at that point it was too late to get us over the hump.”

Despite the loss, Easley is proud of the way his team played.

“I thought we made some good strides,” Easley said. “We made some progress, especially in conference play.

“The first round of conference we went 3-3, and we went 5-1 in the second half. I thought we were playing well at certain points of the season, but we had a rough finish.”

Armstrong ended the season with a 15-12 overall record, but there is reason to believe the Falcons will be ready to take a step forward next season.

With 11 current freshmen and sophomores returning to the program next season, including the team’s leading scorer in Masengo Mutanda, Easley knows his team will have a chance to have a successful 2017-18 campaign.

Armstrong sophomore Masengo Mutanda scored 17 points in the Falcons’ 44-39 loss to Minneapolis South in the Section 6AAAA quarterfinals March 1. (Sun Post file photo by Chris Chesky)
Armstrong sophomore Masengo Mutanda scored 17 points in the Falcons’ 44-39 loss to Minneapolis South in the Section 6AAAA quarterfinals March 1. (Sun Post file photo by Chris Chesky)

“We’re confident that if our players continue to learn and develop during the offseason, then we will definitely have the talent to compete for a conference title,” Easley said.

The Cooper girls basketball team entered the Section 6AAAA tournament with confidence after posting a 13-1 conference record and taking home the metro West Conference title during the regular season.

Cooper (23-3) earned the No. 3 seed at sections, and it was able to earn a 76-52 victory over St. Louis Park to open the tournament.

Aja Wheeler led the Hawks with 21 points, while Kiara Coops added 13 for the Hawks. Lauren Johnson, Ja’Hyia Gaston, Kierra Wheeler and Alexis Nance added eight points apiece for the Hawks.

Cooper was unable to extend its success into the second round of the tournament, however, as the Hawks were defeated 66-44 by No. 2-Wayzata. Kierra Wheeler led the Hawks with 10 points, while Coops scored eight and Sierra Lynch added seven.

With all but three seniors returning to the team next season, a case can be made that the Hawks will only get better next season.

The Hawks ended the 2016-17 season with a 24-4 overall record.

Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.