Boys Basketball: Top-seeded St. Peter takes down Cannon Falls
MANKATO, Minn. - St. Peter's Peter Kruize makes it difficult for any team to score inside.
Kruize stands 6-foot-8 and in Monday's Section 2AA-North Subsection final against Cannon Falls, he made an impact on both ends of the floor but it was the Saints' guards that made life difficult for the Bombers.
Cannon Falls' guards Brock Peterson and Jordan Lundell are a tough assignment and top-seeded St. Peter held them to 19 total points as the Saints advanced to the Section 2AA championship game with a 65-46 victory at the Taylor Center.
"They defended really well today," Cannon Falls head coach Josh Davisson said. "(Kruize) is able to sag or shade into the lane and that hurts us but I thought the bigger thing was the job they did up top defensively on our guards made it tough for us to penetrate, made it tough for us to get any open shots."
Peterson led the third-seeded Bombers (18-11) with 10 points on 4 of 11 shooting and Lundell finished with nine points and three rebounds. Tanner Jackson added nine points and four rebounds while Noah Callister contributed nine points, four rebounds and two assists. Cannon Falls shot 32 percent from the field.
"They stopped Jordan and Brock, which is a big part of our offense so we had to readjust to what we want to do," Bombers' guard Paul Rolfes said. "We want Jordan and Brock to score. They forced our post players to score and forced me to score, which we weren't ready for and it worked. It was a good game plan by them."
On the offensive side, Kruize scored a game-high 19 points and had 10 rebounds while fellow post player Tommy Steidler tallied 18 points and five rebounds. Fourth-ranked St. Peter (25-3) shot better than 55 percent in the win.
"He's so big and physical and such a presence," Davisson said of Kruize. "We had to take some shots that were rushed because of the situation of the game. When they're not fouling and you're not getting rebounds, that's a tough thing."
Cannon Falls slowed Kruize and the Saints' offense early but couldn't get anything going offensively. St. Peter grabbed a 13-10 lead 11 minutes, 29 seconds into the first half and when Austin Noble picked up his second foul in the opening five minutes, it forced Cannon Falls to change its defensive game plan.
"That made a big difference in what we're trying to do," Davisson said. "We have (Callister) and (Jackson) to push him around but they're not nearly as physical as (Noble). He was able to push him around and not let him get to his spots where he wanted to go."
The Saints extended their lead to 24-17 and after Peterson knocked down a jump shot with 1:52 left in the half, Jordan Sorenson responded with a layup 10 seconds later. St. Peter had an answer all game and took a 29-19 lead into halftime.
Coming out of the break, Kruize got to work. He scored eight points in the first seven minutes of the second half as the Saints opened up a 43-27 lead with 10:59 remaining in regulation.
"Our main goal was just to be physical with him the whole time," Callister said. "Make it hard for him to work for the ball. I thought we did an all right job, we could have done better of course, but we did what we could but you've got to give him credit. He made some good moves and finished well."
Peterson hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 47-33 with 8:13 left but on the ensuing possession St. Peter answered with a 3-pointer. The Saints' largest lead came at 61-38 with 3:54 left.
The Bombers kept with St. Peter in a 69-60 loss earlier in the season, leading a good portion of that game, but when the shots weren't falling on Monday, it sapped their energy and the Saints took over.
"Earlier in the year we played them really well, we gave up the lead in the last few minutes of the game and that's what we looked back on for confidence," Callister said. "We knew we could take care of them but we didn't get it done."
When the Bombers started the season 2-5, the subsection final looked like a longshot. Now, Cannon Falls will graduate five players from their first subsection finalist since 1999.
"From where we started 2-5 to get where we're at right now, we'll take that," Davisson said. "I'm not concerned so much record-wise but I thought the growth from the beginning of the season to the end was tremendous.
"I hate to see this group of seniors we have leaving, they've done a nice job building the program to where it is and have left it in a good spot for the juniors to take over. I'm pretty excited about where we are right now and where we'll be moving forward."