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State BBB semifinal notebook: Braham topples No. 1 St. Croix; Goodhue, Jackson are surprise finalists

Bruce Strand on March 12, 2016 - 1:08 am in Minnesota Roundups

By Bruce Strand

The Braham Bombers reached state finals for the first time since winning their third straight crown in 2006 by knocking off top-ranked St. Croix Lutheran 86-77 in the Class 2A semifinals — reversing a December loss to the same team by almost the same score 86-75.

Chris Olson scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Ryan Larson notched 22 points and six assists, and Alec Olson and John Larson 17 points each for the Bombers (29-2).

“It was mental toughness,” said Olson. “We know they are long, tough and physical, and we had to protect the ball. We knew they’d foul us and we had to make our free throws.”

Braham made 21 of 24 from the line with Ade Murkey tallied 26 points, Trenton Krueger 24 and Aage Rovney 16 for St. Croix (28-3), which has beaten Class 3A’s dynastic DeLaSalle this year and had a realistic goal of its first state title after placing third last year with most of the same players back.

Crusader coach Jay Wendland reflected, choking back tears: “We talk all the time about how cool the game of basketball is, how passionate we are about basketball. But it’s not what defines us. It didn’t end the way we wanted but we had a great season. I am so impressed by the resiliency and heart of this team. What I see every day in practice is how I know how successful these young men will be in life.”

Jackson County Central, unseeded entering the tournament, reached the finals with a 63-46 conquest of Annandale, on the heels of their upset of No. 2 ranked Caledonia in the first round. Bodey Behrends, JCC’s willowy, 6-foot-9 post, had his second straight big game with 20 points and eight rebounds and Matt Ringkob sniped for 19 points. Behinds twice dunked when missed shots by teammates hung above the rim. In just their second state trip (the other was 1986) the Huskies (25-5) have knocked off two teams with making third third straight trip. JCC now faces Braham.

 

GOODHUE KEEPS SURPRISING
The Goodhue Wildcats were not ranked in the top 20 teams in Class 1A after a 16-9 regular season, but have knocked off No. 2 Spring Grove 58-44 in the section finals and No. 4 Central Minnesota Christian School 41-38 in the state semifinals, led by Jacob McNamara with 14 points and Ben Opsahl with 11. CMCS (27-4) took third at state last year and has almost everyone back. Their victory over CMSC puts Goodhue (22-9) in the finals as heavy underdogs against No. 1 Minneapolis North, which is beating teams by an average of 40 points. Goodhue also humbled a team with a 22-game win streak, Lake Park-Audubon, 54-29 in the state opener. A huge challenge will be Minneapolis North, a five-time big school champion now in 1A the last two years after a sharp enrollment drop.

 

DE LA SALLE ONE WIN FROM 5TH TITLE IN ROW

Top-ranked DeLaSalle (23-4) is shooting for a state record fifth straight title in 3A after cruising through a Section 6AAA tournament that had four of the top ten ranked teams with Delano, Orono, Waconia and Benilde-St. Mararet’s at No. 5, 7, 8 and 10. (The Islanders faced only Delano, beating them 71-51 in the finals.) At state, the Islanders have dispatched unranked Fridley 65-52 and No. 20 Monticello 59-45 at state, and face No. 9 Fergus Falls in the finals after the Otters upset No. 2 Red Wing 58-55.

 

RED LAKE FALLS IN SEMI’S BUT PLAYERS, FANS HAPPY

Red Lake lost its state semifinal to top-ranked Minneapolis North 82-16 but their large rooting gallery from the Red Lake Indian Reservation cheered heartily throughout and the players clearly enjoyed the experience. “We wanted to play our style before this crowd,” coach Roger White told the Bemidji Pioneer. “We play fun, we play fast, we play defense, we rebound. But it’s more than basketball. We want to have fun out there.” The Warriors (27-4) won their first-round game over Browerville 66-52, stretching their streak to 15, before falling to a North team that outscores foes 95-45 on the average. Will Morrison tallied 19 points and Rob McClain 14, including his 1,000th, for Red Lake. “(Everybody) was just happy to see my teammates and my coaches be here,” said McClain, a junior. “Just being able to show out for the reservation, they were happy to see us. Win or lose, they will always be happy to see us.” Another big group of fans gathered in Bemidji to watch on TV, the Pioneer reported.

 

JACKSON CO. CENTRAL IS SURPRISE FINALST

Jackson County Central, unseeded entering the tournament, reached the finals with a 63-46 conquest of Annandale, on the heels of their upset of No. 2 ranked Caledonia in the first round. Bodey Behrends, JCC’s willowy, 6-foot-9 post, had his second straight big game with 20 points and eight rebounds and Matt Ringkob sniped for 19 points. Behinds twice dunked when missed shots by teammates hung above the rim. In just their second state trip (the other was 1986) the Huskies (25-5) have knocked off two teams with making third third straight trip. JCC now faces Braham.

 

NINE STRAIGHT STATE TOURNEY’S FOR LAKEVILLE PLAYER

Lakeville North senior Drew Stewart has played in state tournaments in nine consecutive seasons, the Star-Tribune reports. The senior guard is currently playing in his fourth state basketball tournament and his team has reached the 4A finals against Hopkins. He has gone to state three times as a football quarterback and twice as a baseball outfielder, and has one state championship gold medal, for basketball in 2014, when he sank a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to cut Hopkins’ lead to one. “It never gets old coming back,” he told the Star-Tribune. “Walking through that tunnel [at Target Center] and seeing all the people here, it gives me the chills.” He has signed with Augustana for football.

 

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