Boys Basketball: Minnehaha Academy pulls past Lake City
MINNEAPOLIS – Lake City's margin for error was razor thin if it wanted to play spoiler for the second straight week.
At state for the first time since 1990, the Tigers had already knocked off second-ranked Caledonia in the Section 1AA finals. Unseeded in the state tournament, Lake City looked to shock Class 2A again by beating top-ranked and top-seeded Minnehaha Academy on Wednesday.
“We knew we had the ball handlers to control the tempo, and we did a good job of that in the first half,” said Tigers head coach Greg Berge. “Our goal was to keep them out of the paint and beat them by making them shoot perimeter shots. We shot well in the first half, we controlled the tempo and we put ourselves in a position to win in the second half.”
Through 18 minutes, Lake City was able to walk the razor's edge. Then Lake City's offense hit a lull and the Redhawks pulled away for good for a 77-63 victory in the 2A quarterfinals at the Target Center.
“We were hitting shots, we were controlling the tempo, then the first five minutes of the second half is when they extended their lead,” said Tigers senior guard Mitch Marien.
Lake City couldn't have asked for a much better start of the state opener, jumping out to a 12-4 lead following a Reid Gastner 3-pointer at the 12-minute, 21-second mark.
Height, speed, athleticism, Minnehaha Academy had the advantage in all three. But the Tigers' gameplan of slowing things down, cycling the ball and finding the 3-pointer was able to provide a counter-punch.
“We had the guards to break them down. That's what we needed to do to win,” Berge said.
And it was freshman Nathan Heise who provided the most damage, scoring 16 points in the opening half on 6 of 7 shooting, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range. Heise put up a desparation 3-pointer that fell as time expired, keeping the Tigers within striking distance of the Redhawks, 33-31.
“It was really hard because the one guy was pretty tight on me the entire time,” said Heise, who finished with 18 points. “I had to do some back-door sets and screens, just to do anything to get open.”
Berge said of Heise, “He's got an incredibly quick release and if he has any moment to shoot, there's a high probability it's going in. They really tried to take him away in the second half.”
Once the shots stopped falling for Lake City, Minnehaha Academy was quick to take the game over, turning a slim 2-point halftime lead to a 12-point advantage after a jumper from freshman standout Jalen Suggs make it a 43-31 Redhawks lead with 15:41 to go.
“You go in, you have a break and you lose your legs a little bit,” Berge said. “We came out slow, a little tenative. We got some really good looks in the second half and they didn't fall.
“If we would have been able to take that punch in the second half and stayed with 'em, I think we would have been with them down the stretch.”
Lake City opened the second half hitting just 2 of 18 field goals. By the time the Tigers got back-to-back buckets from a Marc Kjos 3-pointer and a Marien layup, the team was down 14 and could only get as close as 10 points to Minnehaha Academy.
“Our shots just weren't falling right away,” said Kjos, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half while adding four assists and a team-high seven rebounds. “With their athleticism, they just played heavy gap defense. You couldn't really drive on them. They had quick defenders so it was hard to get in there and kick it out.”
Marien came up with 14 points and a pair of assists while Gastner added nine points for the Tigers (23-7).
Berge added, “We finished strong. If you look at the shooting percentage, we shot well enough to win today. That little lull cost us. Credit to Minnehaha, they shot lights out. … We competed with them probably as hard as any team has. Now, our goal is to end our season on a win.”
Shooting 63.8 percent from the field as a team, Suggs paced the Redhawks with 27 points and 12 rebounds, followed by 19 and six from JaVonni Bickham and 12 and six off the bench from Terry Lockett.
At 6 p.m. Thursday at Concordia University-St. Paul, Lake City will play in the consolation bracket against Jackson County Central.