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Boys Basketball: Lake City knocks off St. Charles, moves into section final

ROCHESTER – A little more than a month ago, St. Charles came to Lake City and ran the Tigers ragged. On Saturday, Lake City drew on that experience, slowing the pace, and the Saints, for a 50-38 Section 1AA semifinal victory at Mayo Civic Auditorium.

Tigers head coach Greg Berge wouldn't say he used the game as a teaching moment, but coupled with Lake City's loss to St. Charles in the 2016 playoffs, there was certainly an undertone of it.

“Our game plan was to slow it down and change the tempo,” Berge said. “The first time we played them, it was a rat race up and down, and that wasn't to our favor.”

After struggling from the 3-point line in the first half, the Tigers hit two in the first seven minutes of the second half to take a 22-21 lead to 33-25. Lake City then took the air out of the ball further, forcing the Saints into long defensive possessions that usually ended with a layup or a trip to the foul line for the Tigers.

“That's kind of the recipe for us this year, but we didn't do that the first time against then,” Berge said. “We did this time, and I guess this is when it matters the most.”

After the pair of 3s, each from Reid Gastner, Lake City hit just three field goals the rest of the way. But the Tigers were able to convert from the free-throw line, hitting 11 of 15 in the final 6 minutes, 56 seconds of the game.

St. Charles didn't do much from the floor, either. The Saints had just 17 points over the final 18 minutes, and they hit just one 3-pointer, which came early in the second half.

“We were definitely focusing on their shooters,” said Lake City's Mitch Marien. “They have a ton of good shooters. We knew coming in that we would have to lock them down and minimize their shots and minimize their possessions.”

And minimize Lake City did. The Tigers took 31 shots compared to 42 for St. Charles. The Tigers hit 15 of their attempts, however, compared to 14 for the Saints.

“We came out more aggressive in the second half,” Gastner said after scoring 12 points, just behind Marien's 13 for the team lead. “Coach said it was our game now, especially after the shot at the end of the first (from Marc Kjos). We got it done.”

Berge has said all season that despite starting just one senior in Marien, his is not a young team. Freshmen Gastner and Nathan Heise join juniors Kjos and Zach Bremer in the starting lineup, but with the offseason being mostly about basketball, age is not indicative of experience. Still, the atmosphere was one that the younger Tigers had to adjust to, and something they will have to overcome on Thursday when Lake City, the No. 3 seed, faces top-seeded Caledonia, the three-time defending section champions, for the right to go to state.

“It's a little nerve-wracking at first,” Gastner said. “But once you get out there, you feel comfortable on the court. It's a really, really good experience out there. It's super fun. It's going to be a good battle (against Caledonia).

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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