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Girls Basketball: Tigers surge to 3rd

Three straight wins can make for a pretty big turnaround in a league as balanced as this year's Missota Conference.

That's all it took for the Farmington girls basketball team to go from a three-way tie for last place less than two weeks ago to third place in the nine-team conference's final standings. The Tigers won close games against Hutchinson, Northfield and Prior Lake to get their overall record back to even at 13-13 and close out their first .500 league season (7-7) in at least 10 years.

"I don't think Farmington has finished third in the Missota," coach Jason Berg said. "I really did not have any expectations in terms of where we would finish, the league was just too balanced to try to project. I knew if we played to our abilities we would have a chance to beat anyone in the league."

The Tigers proved their coach right in Friday's regular season finale by beating Prior Lake 55-52 in Prior Lake. The Lakers finished second in the Missota with a record of 9-5 and beat the Tigers by 17 points in early February.

The game was tied at 44-44 with under two minutes left when lone senior Kirstee Rotty hit her only three-pointer of the game to give the visitors a three-point lead. After a defensive stop, Rotty scored on an inbounds play to make it 49-44.

The Lakers were left to foul and Rotty and Jamie Kenealy combined to hit six straight free throws to clinch the win. The Tigers ended up making 22 of 30 from the line to make up for a 33 percent outing from the field.

Rotty finished with 19 points and six rebounds. Taylor Meyer added her sixth straight double-figure effort with 11 points and four steals and Elena Koch chipped in 10 points and eight boards.

Berg was quick to point out that several other players have been contributing in ways that don't always show up on the stat sheet. Nicole Clifton has been playing her usual shut-down defense, Lauren McHenry has helped out in the press, Jamie Kenealy has been aggressive taking the ball to the basket, Isis Alexander has knocked down open jumpers and Jordan Bridges, Sarah Silber and Shelby Calhoun have found their niches off the bench.

"The girls are starting to play really well individually," he said. "Kids are not making the same mistakes they were a month ago.... We are starting to just play. Not thinking so much, just reacting and playing with a free mind."

Rotty stood out in her final regular season home game last Tuesday, scoring 23 points and missing just three shots as she put on a show for the Senior Night crowd in a 65-57 win over Northfield.

Rotty was 8 for 9 from two-point range and added a 7-for-7 effort at the free-throw line in her fifth 20-point game of the season.

Meyer and Koch each backed Rotty with 10 points and McHenry, Kenealy and Alexander each chipped in six.

The Tigers earned the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Section 1AAAA tournament, which set them up against sixth-seeded Hastings in the first round Wednesday night at Tiger Gym. Hastings came out on top in a non-conference clash, 57-51, Feb. 5 in Hastings.