HIBBING — It’s been quite some time, the Hibbing Community College women’s basketball is getting home cooking for the Region XIII Tournament.
The last time the Cardinals hosted the tourney was 2008.
It took 11 years, but the Region XIII Tournament is back in Hibbing as the No. 1-seeded Cardinals will take on No. 4 Rainy River, beginning at 1 p.m., Saturday, with No. 2 Northland and No. 3 Central Lakes matching wits at 3 p.m.
Hibbing tied for the MCAC Northern Division title with the Pioneers, and by virtue of a coin toss, the Cardinals earned the right to host the event.
It seems only fitting for a team that is ranked nationally, has a 25-2 overall record and finished 14-1 in the conference.
“This is a special team that’s played for themselves, our program, our college and our community,” Hibbing coach Kate Brau said. “Through their hard work, dedication and commitment to our program, and being co-champions in the conference and the No. 1 seed in the region, we’re glad to be hosting.
“Playoffs are set to begin, and anything can happen. It’s a special time, but the work starts now.”
With the top-four teams in the conference coming to town, there will be no gimmes.
“Every team in this tournament is tough and competitive,” Brau said. “Rainy River is no different. We certainly have had great battles with them up to this point, and we have an idea of how to beat them.
“It comes down to execution and ultimately, who’s tougher.”
The Voyageurs, according to Brau, like to move the ball up-and-down the court, but that’s something her team is accustomed to doing as well.
“They’re a full-court team,” Brau said. “They like a fast pace, but it’s difficult to run if you defend and rebound. That’s where our offensive game has to begin. We need to get stops, and that permits us to run.
“If we’re able to run and score, that takes away the kind of pace they want to play at. They won’t be converting on turnovers and rebounds. We need to control the pace of the game, we need to get stops and we need to tune into some of their key offensive players.”
The Cardinals’ defense has been no joke this season. Hibbing is only giving up around 50 points per game, while scoring, on average, 91 points per game.
“We don’t rank as the lowest in the league, but when we take a look at the percentages, we do,” Brau said. “We play a fast-paced game ourselves. That results in a lot of possessions.
“When you look at percentages, we’re one of the best teams in the league. If we can hold them defensively like the last time, to 75 points, and we produce like our average, that will be a great day.”
The last time the two teams met in Hibbing, the Cardinals put up 101 points, so getting out and running will be a key for Hibbing.
“We got stops, we rebounded and we produced turnovers on the defensive end.,” Brau said. “Another thing we did well was out-rebound them by 27 boards.
“They are a team that, rebounding-wise, their numbers are down right now. That’s an area we need to exploit.”
If the Cardinals can do that, they will put themselves in the championship on Sunday, and with home-court advantage, anything is possible.
The Cardinals could find themselves in the National Tournament.
“When it comes to hard work and dedication, that brings opportunity,” Brau said. “We have been communicating that to our team all season long. To host this tournament, it’s a chance of a lifetime.
“As a program, we can’t be afraid. We have to be fearless, compete and do whatever it takes to go get it done.”