It was just the kind of game a tournament host likes to have as the Richfield girls basketball team defeated Burnsville in the opening game of its Holiday Classic tournament on Monday night.
The Spartans, currently ranked fifth in the Class AAA poll, easily improved to 5-0 on the season with an 81-64 win and advanced to its tournament title game against Apple Valley on Tuesday night.
"I was really nervous before we started because we hadn't played in so long," guard Jessica January said. "But it was fun tonight."
January led all scorers with 27 points on the night as the Spartans took the lead early before building a double-digit advantage it would hold for more than three-quarters of the game.
Richfield showed little in the way of rust in its first match-up since a 52-34 win at St. Paul Highland Park on Dec. 15 as the home squad took the lead for good with a basket from guard Hannah Wise less than four minutes into the game.
The Spartans pushed their advantage to 11 points at 23-12 on a layup by center Bryann Guyton with 10 minutes, 30 seconds to play in the first half and to 15 points just over a minute later. From that point, Richfield never led by less than that margin for the remainder of the game.
"We had moments of brilliance," Spartans head coach LeeAnn Wise said. "I couldn't be prouder."
Although January lead the team in scoring, she also passed on several scoring opportunities throughout the night in order to dish the ball off to teammates. Wise said that was intentional and something the team has been working on in practice.
"Jessica made some great passes tonight," Wise said. "We know she's going to get her points, but we are working on getting everyone involved in the offense—it's hard to stop four kids scoring in double figures."
Joining January in double-digit scoring for Richfield were: Hannah Wise, 18 points; Guyton, 14 points; Katie Anderson, 10 points.
Richfield led 48-25 at halftime and spent most of the second half with a 20-plus point lead until a late Burnsville uprising cut the deficit to 15 points before a final basket by January off a cross-court inbounds pass from Hannah Wise accounted for the the final basket of the night.
Now, with it's fifth win clinched, the Spartans now take on Apple Valley High School for the second time this season.
The Eagles gave Richfield its best game of the winter in a 59-48 Spartans' win at Apple Valley on Dec. 9. Wise expects Tuesday night's Holiday Classic title game to be a strong challenge for her team.
"We've played them once—we know them and they know us," she said. "Apple Valley will be tough."
The Spartans and Eagles are scheduled to tip-off at 8 p.m., following the 6 p.m. third-place game featuring Bloomington Jefferson and Burnsville.