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Boys Basketball: Pine Island thwarts Lourdes comeback

Pine Island's Mark Mboya Kotieno puts in a layup during the second half of Tuesday's Section 1AA quarterfinal game against Rochester Lourdes at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Pine Island's Camden Heepke (right) puts up a contested layup against Rochester Lourdes' Matthew Ustby during the first half of Tuesday's Section 1AA quarterfinal at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

ROCHESTER – After taking an 11-point lead with 5 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game, Pine Island was looking like it would coast to a Section 1AA quarterfinal victory over Lourdes on Thursday. Moments later, Panther Broc Finstuen was fouled on a layup, and his reaction to making the basket through the contact drew a technical foul, and his fifth personal.

After a different Pine Island player missed the foul shot, the Eagles hit the two technical shots, a 3-pointer and two more field goals to pull within four. The Panthers were reeling.

But Joe Bauer never wavered, floating a layup to end Lourdes' run, then sinking four-straight free throws to lead Pine Island to a 49-38 win to set up a semifinal showdown with Caledonia at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“Broc's a big part of our team, our leading scorer, a great leader,” Bauer said. “We knew someone had to step up. We all had that in mind, and we're all confident in our abilities. We all had to give more, we had to go even harder, be smarter and take care of the ball better.”

After little scoring through the first 10 minutes of the game, Pine Island would break an 8-8 tie by hitting three 3-pointers, three free throws and a pair of post shots to take a 26-24 lead into halftime.

Lourdes answered out of the break by scoring 10 of the next 12 points, seven of which came from Dominic Sieve, who led his team with 14 points.

“I'm not going to lie, I was a little scared,” Bauer said, smiling postgame.

Much of the Eagles' second-half point total came from outside as Lourdes was unable to figure out a way to the basket with Finstuen and Mark Mboya Kotieno, each of whom had four blocks, swatting everything that went airborne in the paint.

“We know we've got a 6-foot-4 guy and a 6-foot-9 guy there to protect,” said Pine Island head coach Jim McNamara. “And it wasn't just the shots they blocked, they altered so many in the second half.”

After that early second-half push from the Eagles, Camden Heepke ushered in an 11-2 Pine Island run, which ended with the last two of Finstuen's eight points. Heepke scored five of his 10 points during that streak, and Bauer had two of his 17 before his splurge to end the game.

“He's not very big,” said McNamara of the 5-6 Bauer. “But you don't have to be. The other guys did a good job getting him the ball in space, and he was aggressive got to the rim and kept us scoring. That's what we had to do.”

The win was the second over Lourdes in the last month, including a 53-36 victory over the fifth-seeded Eagles on Feb. 17. But now the top-seeded Warriors (24-4), the No. 2 ranked team in Class 2A and defending section champions, stand in the way of the fourth-seeded Panthers (23-4) making the finals. Caledonia beat Lewiston-Altura, 83-56, on Tuesday. The winner faces with third-seeded Lake City (21-6) or second-seeded St. Charles (22-6) at 6 p.m. Thursday in the section championship game.

It would be a big upset if Pine Island gets to next week. But the Panthers will certainly give it a go.

“It's a tall order,” McNamara said.

“We just have to play our game, how we know how,” Bauer said. “We have to give our all, keep our heads, play together, and just do us.”

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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