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Boys Basketball: Freshman lifts Goodhue over R-P in section final

Goodhue celebrates its 40-37 Section 1A victory over Rushford-Peterson on Thursday at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. It's the second-straight year the Wildcats have qualified for the state tournament. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)1 / 3
Goodhue's Sam Opsahl gets off the game-winning 3-pointer in the Wildcats' 40-37, Section 1A victory over Rushford-Peterson on Thursday at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Opsahl also hit a 3-pointer to tied the game at the end of regulation. It's the second-straight year the Wildcats have qualified for the state tournament. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)2 / 3
Goodhue's Jacob McNamara drives to the paint during the Wildcats' 40-37, Section 1A victory over Rushford-Peterson on Thursday at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. It's the second-straight year the Wildcats have qualified for the state tournament. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)3 / 3

ROCHESTER – The side of Matt Halverson's left eye was puffy, a few red bumps courtesy of carrying some extra weight on his back for four years. Not even a second-place finish in the state tournament could keep Halverson from breaking out on Thursday as Goodhue attempted to defend its Section 1A championship against Rushford-Peterson and its head coach Tom Vix.

Halverson, a Vix-trained and coached pupil, suffered through 36 minutes of regulation and two four-minute overtimes before kneeling to the floor after the Wildcats clinched another state berth with a 40-37 victory at the Mayo Civic Center Arena.

“(When) it's against your alma mater, it's sweeter,” Halverson said. “We were 0-for-2 (against R-P in section title games), in 2014 and 2015. This just feels good to get the monkey off my back. This rash right here, that's a stress rash. I've been stressing about this. It feels good to get this win.”

Had Halverson known that the win would ride on the clutch shooting of a freshman, maybe those bumps would have taken over his entire face.

Trailing 29-26 with 11.6 seconds left in regulation, Goodhue inbounded the ball and was forced to kick it out to Sam Opsahl. The ninth-grader launched from well behind the 3-point line, closer to Halverson than the arc.

“He was the third option on the play. (R-P) covered up the top of the key and they covered the corner, and our last option was to get the ball inside and get Sam step into that shot,” Halverson said. “And talk about no fear, he stepped up and knocked it down. He hit two shots to continue the season for us. He's got to be feeling good, and rightfully so.”

Sam finished with six points, and his final three came in the second overtime, once again saving the Wildcats from elimination.

Landon Skalet hit one of two free throws with 21.7 seconds left in overtime No. 2, giving the Trojans a 38-37 lead. Goodhue took a little more time setting up, and with Noah Carlson and Luke Rasmussen on the Trojans' bench after fouling out, there was room for Sam to drift to the corner.

In one motion, the freshman caught a pass and went airborne. Another 3-pointer, and, this time, a one-point lead with 9.2 to go. Sam's cousin, Ben Opsahl, would hit two free throws after R-P was forced to foul following an offensive four on its possession. The Trojans would miss a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Wildcats consecutive section championships.

“That was a nice, open look,” Sam said, with students still cheering him minutes after the game ended. “It's crazy.

“My teammates have helped me all year, and it's nice to be able to help them back.”

Senior Jacob McNamara, the driving force of Goodhue's offense, was one of many in foul trouble. McNamara scored all five Wildcat points in the first overtime, and had no problem with Sam getting the ball late.

“We believe in him like there's no tomorrow, he's probably our best 3-point shooter,” McNamara said. “We have a lot of trust in him, and hopefully he's got more in him.”

The game, played in a possession-heavy style that both teams have utilized to great success over the years, kept the score down. But both teams were plagued by turnovers, combining for more than 30.

It was sloppy, even ugly. A glance at the leading scorers, Dawson Dahl (15) and Jacob Paulson (13) for R-P, and McNamara (14) and Ben Opsahl (12) for Goodhue, were evidence of a game that was not played at peak efficiency.

But like redness and swelling, everything gets better with time and victory.

“Turnovers, like made shots, are very contagious. Ben was sick the entire game. He was sick yesterday, and just for him to play was a big deal,” Halverson said. “Granted, he did not play well, and he'll be the first to admit that. But we were tied after all that, and we went five, six minutes without even getting a shot off. We just said we had to believe. And we did.”

The Class 1A state tournament will be seeded this weekend, and games will begin Thursday.

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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