The Prior Lake girls basketball team was denied a shot at a second straight Section 2AAAA title.
The fifth-seeded Lakers showed a lot of fight in the semifinals at top-seeded Eden Prairie March 2, but in the end couldn't pull off the upset. The Eagles won the final four minutes of the game to pull out a 68-57 victory.
Prior Lake trailed by 10 points at the break (34-24) and was down by as many as 13 early in the second half. But the Lakers got back into the game using a physical full-court press, forcing multiple Eagle turnovers.
Prior Lake found itself leading by one point twice in the final nine minutes of play. But Eden Prairie made more plays down the stretch and knocked down some clutch free throws. The Eagles closed the game on a 13-2 run in the final four minutes.
The Lakers finished the season with an 11-17 overall mark (6-12 in the South Suburban Conference). The record was exactly what Prior Lake was hoping for following last year's first-ever state berth as a Class 4A program.
But Prior Lake had some key injuries, including losing senior guard McKenna Hofschild Jan. 31 to a high ankle sprain in a league loss at Rosemount. She missed the next seven games, played briefly in the final regular season against Lakeville North and played just 13 minutes in the Lakers' 52-47 section quarterfinal win at Edina Feb. 27.
Prior Lake ended up 2-9 in games that Hofschild didn't start and was 1-9 when she played less than 10 minutes.
Hofschild, the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, didn't start against Eden Prairie, but quickly found herself in the game when the Eagles opened the contest up on an 8-0 run.
Hofschild led Prior Lake with 19 points, scoring 10 in the first half. She was still limited by the ankle injury; she didn't have the same explosiveness she normally does, nor did she had the same lift on her jumper.
But she kept playing hard, as did her teammates. Eden Prairie was without its starting point guard, who was lost for the season to a knee injury in mid-February.
Prior Lake's press gave the Eagles all kinds of troubles. But in the end, Eden Prairie was able to score a couple of easy baskets off it late in the game.
Sophomore Emily Kulstad finished with 10 points for the Lakers, while senior Reagan Dahl scored 8 and sophomore Tatum Brostrom had 7. Junior Haidyn Pitsch chipped in 5 points.
Hofschild finished the season, averaging 23.8 points per game. She went into this season needing 27 points to go over 2,000 for her career. She finished the year with 475 points, giving her 2,488 for her five-year career.
Don't forget Hofschild's Dec. 1 game in the Breakdown Tip Off Classic in Hopkins. She scored a Minnesota girls basketball single-game scoring record with 63 points in a 99-95 loss to Park Center. She also tied the state record for most made free throws in a game (25), while breaking the mark of attempted free throws (35).
Hofschild, who will play Division I next year at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, was one of seven seniors on the Lakers' roster, including Dahl, Paris Kallevig, Lexi Hanson, Lexi Wiskow, Riley Theis and Taylor Rentschler.
Prior Lake will return some good talent, but filling Hofschild's scoring shoes will be a priority next year. But that will likely take a team effort. Pitsch was second on the team in scoring this winter at 11.7 points per game.