Boys Basketball: Lake City stuns Rosemount
ROCHESTER – School enrollment is how the Minnesota High School League separates its sports. In basketball, there are four classes, and Lake City sits in 2A. Rosemount, the Tigers' opponent in the Rotary U.S. Bank Holiday Classic on Thursday, is in 4A. The student populations are even more stark in comparison with Lake City's MSHSL count at 350, and the Irish at a tidy 1,953.
And for some outsiders, the final score could be just as disparate. Rosemount has 13 feet of Division I talent in senior twins Alec and Luke Loehr. The Tigers have two freshmen that log heavy minutes, including one in the post.
But Lake City stayed with the Irish for much of the first half before a late run gave Rosemount an 11-point halftime lead. The Tigers would not give in, coming out of the break with a 25-4 run on their way to upsetting the No. 10-ranked team in the state's biggest class, 70-64, in the Mayo Civic Center's Taylor Arena.
“Nothing was really said at halftime,” said Lake City head coach Greg Berge. “We missed some free throws, we missed some open shots, and we changed some things defensively. We're a good shooting team, and I've told these guys that good basketball can always win. I don't care how big you are, they had a huge size advantage. Our guys compete and battle, we're very smart. We had a great second half and played good basketball.”
Lake City had the early lead, at 8-2, thanks to Marc Kjos' tallying five point in less than two minutes. But four different Irish gave Rosemount its first advantage, 11-8, with 12 minutes, 59 seconds left in the opening half.
The Tigers were able to stay close over the ensuing eight minutes, but Lake City went cold from the field, and at the free-throw line. The Irish took advantage, scoring 10 of the final 12 points of the half, including a 3-pointer from each of the Loehr's.
It appeared as though the Tigers would buckle to the taller team, the one with the advantage of more than 1,600 students. But Lake City didn't change. The Tigers attacked defensively like they usually do, and the sharpshooting that is their calling card warmed up in a hurry with three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second half. Reid Gastner tied the game 34-34 by hitting from behind the arc, and two minutes later, with 13:00 on the clock, Mitch Marien put Lake City on top for good 38-36.
“We took better shots in the second half, and we picked up our intensity on defense,” Marien said. “Everything was just working out.”
From there, the Tigers steadily built a lead that got as high as 11 with 4:00 to go. The Irish then went to the fee-throw line in three-straight possessions, hitting all six shots. Rosemount would hit 17 of 19 from the line, with Luke Loehr hitting all 11 of his foul shots.
Lake City would have to do the same to clinch the victory, and the Tigers did not disappoint. Lake City scored its final 15 points from the stripe, missing just once in 16 attempts, finishing 26 of 33 for the game.
“We want to play in the Rotary, to play here in this setting where we play the section tournament,” Berge said. “And it's a great experience for the kids. I'm proud of our guys, but I'm not surprised.”
The Tigers were led by Kjos' 21 points, with Gastner (17), Marien (15) and Heise (13) all reaching double figures as well in what has become a common theme for Lake City this season. Predictably, Luke (27) and Alec (16) led the Irish, and were the only two with more than seven points for Rosemount.
On Friday, the Tigers (7-0) will face either Rochester John Marshall or Robbinsdale Cooper at 8:30 p.m. in the Auditorium in the championship game of their bracket.