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Boys Basketball: Wildcats lights-out in sub-section title game

Goodhue's Ben Opsahl gets by the Bethlehem Academy defense for a layup during the first half of Saturday's Section 1A-West championship game at the Mayo Civic Auditorium in Rochester. Opsahl had 17 points in the Wildcats' 69-47 victory. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Goodhue's Jacob McNamara (55) puts up a shot in the post over Bethlehem Academy's Avery Hunt during the first half of Saturday's Section 1A-West championship game in Rochester. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

ROCHESTER – Tuesday in the sub-section semifinals, shooting was a struggle for Goodhue. Four days later, it was like the Wildcats couldn't miss.

With a 69-47 victory in the Section 1A-West title game against Bethlehem Academy Saturday, Goodhue is back in the section championship game for the fourth straight year.

And the Wildcats advanced with a light-out shooting performance, hitting 68 percent of their shots from the field, including an 11 of 16 performance from 3-point range. Five Goodhue players finished in double digits, which is a stunning stat for a team renowned for allowing the fewest points per game in Class 1A.

“We knew Randolph was kind of a fluke and we're a better shooting team than we showed on Tuesday,” said Wildcats head coach Matt Halverson. “The difference tonight was we wanted to go inside first, whereas we went outside first against Randolph. Jacob (McNamara) and Ben (Opsahl) did a good job getting touches inside and kicking out to our open shooters. And those shooters were able to set their feet and knock down some shots.”

Trailing the Cardinals early, the first big lift outside came from senior guard Lucas Thomforde, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the corner to an 11-8 lead. Thomforde had three of the team's eight 3-pointers in the first half.

“Everyone got some penetration in and we kicked it outside. We always go low first and go outside for shots and we were knocking them down tonight,” said Lucas, who finished with 11 points. “No one seemed to be over by my side and I knocked them down.”

With a 35-27 halftime lead and the offense humming, it was now time for the Goodhue defense to shut down Bethlehem Academy, namely Avery Hunt and the duo of Brendan and Damon Trump.

At first, that took some humility from the Wildcats' coach.

“If I wasn't so stubborn, I would have done it earlier in the first half. We were in a pressing defense and gave them too many easy looks,” Halverson said. “We changed it at halftime to a different press and more or less packed it in on them in the half-court so they couldn't get the good looks while emphasizing that we had to find the Trumps.”

With the outside game from the first half forcing the Cardinals to the perimeter, Goodhue (27-3) managed to thrive inside in the second half with McNamara and Ben as both finished with 17 points. McNamara had a double-double with 11 rebounds while Ben finished with five boards, two steals and two assists.

Goodhue's Sam Opsahl scored 10 points off the bench in the Wildcats' Section 1A-West win Saturday.Lucas, Ben and McNamara were far from the only contributors on offense. Guard Taylor Buck finished with 12 points, and Sam Opsahl finished with 10 points off the bench.

“It's nice to get a lot of guys scoring, it makes us more multi-dimensional,” said Ben, who had 10 of his points in the second half. “When you got five guys scoring, you don't really know who to stop. We spread the wealth around.”

Brendan finished with a game-high 22 points for the Cardinals (16-12), followed by 14 from Hunt.

After averaging 54.7 points per game in the regular season, the Wildcats' offense has taken a step up in the section tournament at 65.3.

“Coach tells us keep shooting, even if you're in a slump,” Ben said. “Keep shooting, they'll fall sometime. It showed in this game from last game.”

Halverson added, “It's very similar to last year. We struggled in the semifinal and then played really well in the sub-section title game. It's the same this year. Hopefully, we're going to carry that momentum into Thursday and hopefully play well against Rushford-Peterson.”

Goodhue and Rushford-Peterson will play for the section title for the third time in four years at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. The Trojans won the East sub-section title Saturday after a late 3-pointer clinched a 46-43 win over Spring Grove.

Back on Dec. 13, Goodhue traveled to Rushford and rolled to a 56-33 victory. But that was long ago and R-P has one of its top players back after missing that early-season tilt.

“They're a good team, we know that. They got Noah Carlson back so that helps them a lot. Helps their defense a lot,” Ben said. “We know they'll be a better team with Noah out there.”

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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