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Boys Basketball: Caledonia ends Pine Island's best season

ROCHESTER – Pine Island knew it needed to slow down the King brothers to have a chance against top-seeded Caledonia in the Section 1AA semifinals. The Panthers also needed to dictate the tempo by keeping the Warriors from getting up and down the court and playing at a high speed.

For a while, it worked. But Caledonia, and the Kings, would go on a 18-8 run to close the first half before fighting off Pine Island with a 21-12 run to move onto the finals with a 70-57 victory.

“The end of the first half was the difference,” said Panthers head coach Jim McNamara. “We went from a tight game to 10 points at the end of the half. And it was all layups...Our whole defense was predicated not to let that happen.”

With the game tied 18-18 with 6 minutes, 47 seconds left until halftime, Owen King took over. The Warriors' junior hit back-to-back 3-pointers, added a layup on a steal, and broke down the defense twice more for points in the paint to give Caledonia a 36-26 lead before the clock hit zeros.

“The first 14 minutes was just what we wanted, forcing jump shots. It was even game,” McNamara said.

Coming out of the break, the Panthers had two problems. The first was how to contain King, the second was dealing with foul trouble for the second-straight game. Joe Bauer, Broc Finstuen and Mark Mboya Kotieno each had two fouls before the Warriors started their run. And that opened up the lane that let King go off.

“We couldn't protect the lane anymore, meaning we couldn't block shots,” Kotieno said.

Pine Island would come out of the break ready to make a game of it. The Panthers eventually cut the Warriors' lead to four, at 49-45. Part of that was due to Caledonia holding the ball for long stretches of time, forcing Kotieno to guard beyond the 3-point line. It was effective in that Kotieno would pick up a couple of fouls, but the Warriors also failed to convert a couple of times while Camden Heepke hit a couple 3s on the other end.

“There was nothing I could do except foul them, and I already had three. And when I got my fourth, that was it,” Kotieno said. “It was frustrating.”

Caledonia would then turn it up, scoring 11-straight points to all but put the game away with 3:12 on the clock.

“I was thinking there a big comeback coming,” Finstuen said. “I thought this was our time, but they held the ball and we couldn't do anything. It was tough.”

Owen King would finish with a game-high 26 points, with Noah King adding 16. The Panthers had Finstuen leading the way with 23 points and 14 rebounds, with Heepke adding 13 points.

Pine Island wanted to make the section finals, but even coming up short won't diminish what the Panthers accomplished this season, recording 23 wins to just five losses.

“It's the most wins in school history,” McNamara said. “We have 11 seniors that have been a super group. I'm really happy to have those numbers. I'm really proud of the season we had.”

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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