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Girls basketball: Hilltoppers end Agates' season

Two Harbors junior Tori Bott drives to the basket in the Agates' 68-36 loss to Duluth Marshall in the opening round of the Section 7AA tournament. (Jimmy Lovrien/News-Chronicle)1 / 3
Laura Erickson, a Two Harbors sophomore, looks for an open player during the Agates' playoff loss to Duluth Marshall. (Jimmy Lovrien/News-Chronicle)2 / 3
Laura Erickson, a Two Harbors sophomore, dribbles the ball during the Agates' 68-36 loss to Duluth Marshall. (Jimmy Lovrien/News-Chronicle)3 / 3

Agate senior Carina Hebl hit four 3-pointers, but Two Harbors' season ended Thursday, March 1, with a 68-36 loss to Duluth Marshall in the opening round of the Section 7AA playoffs.

Agate leading scorer Tori Bott added 13 points to Hebl's 12, but the pair couldn't keep pace with the Hilltoppers, who had two players score at least 25 points.

Gianna Kneepkens led all scorers with 28 points for Marshall and Grace Kirk added 25.

Two Harbors' season was derailed for the third straight year by an injury to one of its top players. Bott was lost for more than a month to an ankle injury during practice just after the holiday break, and during that time, the Agates failed to win a single game.

Bott's point production keyed much of the rest of the Two Harbors offense and the Agates struggled mightily to score without her in the lineup.

The season followed a frustratingly similar pattern for Two Harbors. Two years ago, Ayla Lemke suffered a knee injury just before the season began and was lost for the entire season.

Last season, Lemke lost time to a minor knee injury. Starting point guard Brianna McGrath suffered a devastating knee injury just as Lemke returned and derailed a season that started with 11 consecutive wins.

Two Harbors finished just 10-17 this year, but the season wasn't without its bright spots. Despite her injury, Bott emerged as a truly lethal offensive threat and during her absence, many of the younger players on the Agates' squad received plenty of quality playing time.

Two Harbors has only four seniors on its roster and Bott could be the only senior next season.

Despite the lack of wins, the playing time and experience will be invaluable for the young squad moving forward, according to coach Chris Lemke.

The Agate coach was also thankful for the good attitude of his seniors and their role leading the team this year. In addition to Hebl, Katie Archer, Brianna Kiukka and Cassie Prince made the season better for everyone, Coach Lemke said.

"I wanted to be around those girls every day," he said. "I looked forward to going to practice every day."

Bott, Hebl named to All-Polar Team

Tori Bott was named to the All-Polar League Big Schools first team despite the missed playing time due to her injury. Carina Hebl was named to the second team.

Section 7AA first round, March 1

Two Harbors 13-23—36

Duluth Marshall 32-36—68

Two Harbors — Carina Hebl 12, Tori Bott 13, Cassie Prince 5, Brianna Hiukka 2, Tricia Osbakken 4. Totals 13 6-11 36.

3-point goals — Hebl 4.

Duluth Marshall — Grace Kirk 25, Anna Eyer 4, Gianna Kneepkens 28, Cara Steede 3, Alyssa Davis 2, Danielle Weber 2, Kate Kleinschmidt 4. Totals 27 10-17 68.

3-point goals — Kirk 2, Kneepkens 2.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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