Rosemount girls basketball coach Chris Orr took a page out of Tom Brady’s book this week.
Brady spent the week leading up to this year’s Super Bowl texting his Tampa Bay teammates ahead of their win over Kansas City, “We’re going to win.”
Ahead of Rosemount’s Class 4A state quarterfinal date with No. 2 Farmington, Orr texted his players every day, multiple times a day, “We’re winning.”
“He was putting confidence, instilling confidence into us, and I think that’s so important,” Rosemount senior forward Helen Staley said.
And win Rosemount did, knocking Farmington off 52-44 at East Ridge High School on Tuesday to advance to next week’s state semifinals, where they’ll take on Centennial at Target Center.
“I told my kids, ‘Hey, now we can go under the bright lights and play showtime now. Now you’ve earned it,’” Orr said.
Rosemount has earned everything it has gotten this season, but it didn’t get its first state tournament berth in 19 years in the most satisfying of fashions. Lakeville North had to bow out of the Section 3 final after a recent opponent recorded a positive COVID-19 test. So the Irish advanced by default.
That’s … a little anticlimactic.
“No one wants to be handed, in a sense, a state tournament berth,” Orr said. “We knew we were good enough to be here, and we put in the work.”
If you can beat the Tigers, you belong on the big stage.
The Irish were close earlier this season. They lost their first meeting against their South Suburban Conference rivals by a whopping 23 points, but the second meeting was far closer. Rosemount was within one point in the closing minutes before falling by five. The Irish were on the doorstep, now they needed to kick it in.
“When we saw the brackets, we respect them. They’re a great team, but we had all the confidence in the world,” Orr said.
Rosemount (19-3) played like it. The Irish were the better team out of the gates, jumping out to an 11-1 advantage.
Staley said that start “was very much something that it just fired us up even more. It kept us going, and it made us believe even more that we could beat them.”
Farmington — a state finalist last season before the title game was cancelled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — made multiple runs, as all great teams do. Senior forward Sophie Hart, a North Carolina State commit, had 14 points, while Farmington guard Peyton Blandin hit one big triple after another en route to her 26 points.
But every time the Tigers made a charge, Rosemount had a response. After Farmington (21-1) cut the deficit to 36-31 in the second half, Rosemount went on a 13-0 run while holding the Tigers scoreless for more than five minutes. The Irish can score with the best of them, but Orr said defense is Rosemount’s M.O.
“Our best offense is a great defense,” he said. “We were mixing them up between man and a little 3-2 zone that we just put in on Saturday. And they just did a great job of executing the game plan.”
Alexa Ratzlaff had 18 for the Irish, while Ivory Finley added 13, but Staley was the straw that stirred the drink Tuesday. The Oakland commit dropped one dime after another, serving in a playmaking role from the perimeter to keep Hart — a defensive dominator — out of the paint.
“Her versatility on the outside to be able to handle it, get into our offense, passing, decision making, was what we saved that game plan right there for, for her to just kind of put us on her back,” Orr said. “She understands it’s not all about scoring. It’s about little things that might not go into the box score, and she was outstanding tonight.”
Orr said Tuesday’s win gave his team “validation.”
In front of a loud crowd against one of the best teams in the state, Rosemount delivered.
“This was our game to prove it, and that’s what we talked about, as well,” Orr said. “This was our section championship game to prove that we belong in state. All the credit in the world goes to those girls.”