HIBBING — Hibbing saved its best for last.
The Cardinals, who were averaging 91 points per game this season, found the going a little tough in the Region XIIIB tournament.
After scoring 79 points in a semifinal win over Rainy River, Hibbing only had 37 points through three quarters, and found itself trailing by two in the title game.
The Cardinals needed to get that prolific offense going.
Hibbing fell behind by five with just over six minutes to play, but the Cardinals would out-score Northland 21-11 in the final six minutes of play en route to a 67-62 Region XIIIB championship win over Northland Sunday at Cardinal Gymnasium.
It’s the first Region XIIIB title for Hibbing since the inception of the regional format.
“It’s special, but it doesn’t happen without hard work and commitment,” Hibbing coach Kate Brau said. “You can lead a horse to water, but they have to drink it. This team has done an exceptional job being committed to our program, working for five months straight.
“They have earned this National berth.”
Hibbing did start quick, jumping out to a 10-0 lead as both Hannah Morris and Alexis Desjarlait hit 3-pointers, and Northland was having trouble finding the basket.
The only problem, the Cardinals didn’t take advantage of it.
The Pioneers didn’t score their first basket until 1:44 of the first quarter, but Hibbing only had three points after that initial spurt in the game.
“Northland, traditionally, is a tough team defensively,” Brau said. “We knew that going in. We knew we had to run and attack in transition in order to beat this team.”
The first time the two teams met in Northland, the Cardinals didn’t do that and lost by 10. The second time, in Hibbing, it did and won by 25.
“Today, we were slow to execute that mentality,” Brau said. “We had great quarters and not-so-great quarters.”
That came back to haunt the Cardinals in the second quarter as Northland finally found its range, especially Brooke Heggie in the post.
The Northland sophomore would score 10 points in the quarter, all from close range as the Pioneers pulled to within one at the half, 28-27.
“That didn’t surprise me because Northland has demonstrated that ability all season,” Brau said. “They’re a resilient team, who will always punch back. We knew Northland would do that. We didn’t respond well to it.
“At times, we felt a little pressured, but we stayed the course and competed for 40 minutes, and came up with the win.”
It was still going to take a little bit work to get that victory.
Heggie exerted herself in the the third quarter, scoring 16 points, to give the Pioneers a 39-37 lead heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, Northland took a 51-46 lead, with just over six minutes to play, and things looked bleak for the Cardinals.
What the Cardinals needed to do was score, and that’s what happened.
Four points from Sherea’ Cherenfant, a three by Morris and a deuce by Bethany Baldwin gave Hibbing a 55-53 lead with 2:30 to play in the game.
Carly Mekash would tie it, then Cherenfant hit a free throw to make it 56-55, with two minutes to play.
After getting a defensive stop, Morris hit a layup with 1:32 to play, then Shauna Kavajcez converted a three-point play to make it 61-55.
Once the Cardinals had the lead, Morris figured the game was over.
“It was a feeling that, ‘We’ve got this,’” Morris said. “We did what we needed to do, and we were going to get the job done.”
Hibbing would hit five more free throws down the stretch to secure the win. In all, the Cardinals scored 30 points in the quarter.
“In that fourth quarter, we didn’t stop,” Brau said. “We knew we had the momentum, and attacking in transition is ultimately why we scored 30 points in that quarter.”
The two keys to the comeback — rebounding and forcing turnovers in the final 10 minutes of play.
“We were struggling rebounding-wise,” Brau said. ““What we did down the stretch was rebound the ball. They were one-and-done. We were finally big, and got those crucial boards necessary to clinch the win.
“Northland is great in the paint, but we did force 28 turnovers in this game, so that gave us the kind of possessions we needed to win.”
Baldwin was the only other Cardinal in double figures with 16.
“It was something that we were going to go and get because I knew that we could defeat Northland,” Morris said. “It’s something that we all wanted, and we got it. It’s amazing. We’ve worked so hard this year.
“I knew it was going to happen, so it’s an incredible feeling.”
Heggie finished with 29 points, and Mekash had 13.
NCC 8 19 12 23 — 62
HCC 13 15 9 30 — 0
Northland: Ashley Moe 3, Janie Wunderlich 8, Carly Mekash 13, Brooke Heggie 29, Hannah Dietsch 2, Bailey Greene 7.
Hibbing: Sherea’ Cherenfant 7, Bethany Baldwin 16, Alexis Desjarlait 5, Hannah Morris 29, Shauna Kavajcez 5, Stacie Lokken 3, Klaryssa Whelan 2.
Total Fouls: Northland 22; Hibbing 18; Fouled Out: Cherenfant; Free Throws: Northland 9-16; Hibbing 14-22; 3-pointers: Moe, Wunderlich 2, Greene 2, Cherenfant, Baldwin, Desjarlait, Morris 5, Lokken.