State basketball tournament

Nome-Beltz junior guard Della Medlin moves the ball between Monroe Catholic defenders Margaret Zaverl and Jane Menard during the Rams' 64-39 victory over the Nanooks during the 3A girls state basketball tournament at Palmer Junior Middle School on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Mark this sports reporters words, the Monroe Catholic Lady Rams will be back in the 3A State Basketball Tournament next year. They’ll return all but two players, of whom only one saw significant playing time, and the Big Three of Katie Bast, Shelby Eidenmiller, and Maggie Zaverl will still be around. The Lady Rams are poised to continue being successful in 2022.

Still, all of that is of little consolation for the 2021 team after the Lady Rams came up just short on Friday evening.

In the 3A Girls Basketball State Semifinals against Sitka, the Lady Rams went cold in the fourth quarter while Sitka just kept scoring from the foul line. In the end, that was the difference as Monroe fell to Sitka 49-36. The Lady Rams’ season is now over.

Offense was hard to come by early on as neither team scored until 3:30 minutes had gone by when Bast hit a diving floater to give Monro a 2-0 lead. After Sitka responded with five points to take the lead, Bast drained a 3-pointer to tie the game up. Sitka hit layup before the first quarter ended to give them a 7-5 lead.

It looked like Monroe’s habit of coming alive in the second quarter would continue early after an 8-3 run to start. Bast and Eidenmiller drained consecutive 3-pointers and Bast came up big with a steal before dishing the ball to Eidenmiller inside who hit a layup to put Monroe ahead 13-10. However, Sitka seemed to come alive after as they closed the half on a 6-0 run to take a 16-13 halftime lead.

Monroe appeared to find their groove again at the start of the second half with an 8-3 run courtesy of consecutive 3-pointers by Bast and Eidenmiller and a layup by Tatyana Snowden to go up 21-19. After a layup by Sitka, Bast hit another trey to make it 24-21 before Sitka started swinging again. Sitka went on an 8-0 run to go up 29-24 before Zaverl made her first basket of the game to close the gap to 29-26 at the end of the third quarter.

Unfortunately, the fourth quarter was about as cold as an Alaskan February for Monroe. Sitka started the quarter on a 9-2 run including five made free throws to go up 38-28 before Monroe started to click. A layup by Snowden preceded a 3-pointer by Zaverl with 2:25 left to pull Monroe back within three. Monroe had to start fouling, though, and Sitka simply couldn’t miss. Sitka made four consecutive free throws to go back up by nine before Bast hit a 3-pointer with 1:12 to go to make it 42-36. Sitka closed the game with seven made free throws and Monroe couldn’t score again as the Lady Rams were forced to pack their bags and head home to Fairbanks.

Bast led the Lady Rams with 17 points, Eidenmiller contributed eight, Snowden had six, and Zaverl finished with five. Free throws were the difference as Monroe went 0-for-6 from the line while Sitka made 19-of-28, including 18-for-26 in the second half.

Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at Hpisani@newsminer.com, 459-7530, or on Twitter @Hpisani91.