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Boys Basketball: Strong second half puts Wildcats past Rockets

Goodhue's Taylor Buck drives to the hoop for a layup during the second half of Tuesday's Section 1A-West semifinal against Randolph at the Mayo Civic Auditorium in Rochester. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)1 / 4
Randolph's Andrew Wenstrom (right) drives baseline against Goodhue's Jacob McNamara during the first half of Tuesday's Section 1A-West semifinal at the Mayo Civic Auditorium in Rochester. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)2 / 4
Goodhue's Jacob McNamara (55) posts up against Randolph's Andrew Wenstrom during the second half of Tuesday's Section 1A-West semifinal at the Mayo Civic Auditorium. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)3 / 4
Randolph's Calvin Stoetz passes out of the lane during Tuesday's Class 1A-West semifinal game against Goodhue at the Mayo Civic Auditorium in Rochester. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)4 / 4

ROCHESTER – Ugly, pretty, doesn't matter. Goodhue just needed to move on.

Fourth-seeded Randolph took the top-seeded and defending Section 1A champion Wildcats out of their comfort zone, resorting to outside shots and man-to-man defense.

But eventually, Goodhue found a way and advanced to the Section 1A-West finals with a 59-43 victory over the Rockets Tuesday at the Mayo Civic Auditorium.

“It's about survive and advance,” said Goodhue head coach Matt Halverson, “and we found a way to survive. We found a way to advance and now it's just a matter of getting better these next three days.”

That improvement will hopefully pay off for the Wildcats (26-3) when they face third-seeded Bethlehem Academy for the sub-section finals at 8 p.m. Saturday back in Rochester. The Cardinals knocked off second-seeded Southland on overtime Tuesday, 67-60.

With Randolph throwing out a zone defense, Goodhue looked sharp early on with an 11-3 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from Lucas Thomforde and Taylor Buck. But, the Wildcats would only hit two more threes the rest of the first half despite getting some wide-open looks in the corner.

“We didn't think we could chase Goodhue around defensively so we sat back a little bit in a zone and forced them to shoot from the outside early, and they were cold early,” said Rockets head coach Kent Otte. “Eventually, a team like that is going to get back on track.”

The Wildcats' cold shooting allowed Randolph to go on a 15-2 run for an 18-13 lead after an Andrew Wenstrom 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 4 seconds to go before halftime.

The Wildcats eventually went into the break up 25-21, but the Rockets managed to limit Goodhue senior post Jacob McNamara to one field goal – a 3-pointer – over the first 18 minutes.

“He's such a great player. He passes well, he sees the floor. We had to start with him and find a way to minimize how much he could hurt us,” Kent said of McNamara. “I thought we made him get away from the basket and we chased him out a little further. We practiced hard for him this week.”

Even after the 3-pointers struggled to fall in the first half, the Wildcats persisted. And once Sam Opsahl hit a 3-pointer to put Goodhue ahead 28-24 with 14:02 to play, the floor opened up for the rest of the offense.

“We made an adjustment to push the ball inside a little bit and go inside-outside,” said McNamara, who finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists. “Once we got going inside, then we hit some outside threes and it opened from there.”

Grant Otte, Randolph's leading scorer with 12 points along with five rebounds, hit a jumper with 12:09 to play to cut Goodhue's lead to 32-28. But over the next nine minutes, the Wildcats were methodical with the ball and looked for the right shots en route to a 12-4 run, capped off with a Ben Opsahl layup that put Goodhue ahead 44-32.

“It takes one (shot) to open it up a little bit. It just took us too long to get that first (3-pointer) to go,” Halverson said. “In the second half, when that first one did go, we started believing and getting our confidence. We're going to shoot better in our sub-section championship, I'm confident of that.”

Abandoning its usual zone for a man-to-man defense in the second half, the Rockets hit just three 3-pointers over the final 18 minutes.

“Otte and (Carsyn) Gunderson are knock-down 3-point shooters so we knew we had to cover them up,” McNamara said. “They were our two main concerns and we took them away in the second half.”

Ben Opsahl had 12 points, five assists and four rebounds in the Wildcats' victory while Buck finished with 11 points and six steals in the victory.

Calvin Stoetz had 10 points for Randolph while Wenstrom and Gunderson had nine and seven points, respectively. The Rockets end the 2016-17 season with a 17-10 record.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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