Boys Basketball: Wildcats handle LP-A in state quarterfinals
MINNEAPOLIS – The last two years, Lake Park-Audubon has been carried to state on the broad shoulders of 6-foot-10 post Jesse Bergh.
But over the last two years, Bergh and the rest of the Raiders have never experienced a brick wall like they do with the Goodhue defense.
“They got a big guy in the back and it's hard for my guards to get up the court. If they can't get it up the court, they can't throw it for me,” Bergh said. “I just have to keep up my composure and push the guy behind me when he pushes back. And that's what they do: They push back.”
Matched up for the second straight year in the Class 1A quarterfinals, the Wildcats' outside shooting and defensive pressure flummoxed the Raiders once again as second-seeded Goodhue advanced with a 57-37 victory Thursday at Williams Arena.
“This is what we wanted to do,” said Wildcats head coach Matt Halverson. “The goal was to get Bergh going up and down the floor as much as possible because that's a big frame to be moving back and forth. Then when you have that, plus Jacob McNamara leaning on you … we wanted to wear him down a little bit. … I think fatigue was a factor in the second half.”
A 6-foot-10 post like Bergh, a Minnesota State-Moorhead recruit, is not a common sight in southeast Minnesota, let alone Class 1A. Goodhue couldn't match the size, but the team opted to put so much pressure on LP-A's guards that getting the ball inside would be problematic all game.
“We practiced that all week long,” guard Nicholas Thomforde said of the Wildcats' full-court press. “We just pressured the guards and hoped we got turnovers.”
Thomforde later added, “I don't know if they had that pressure for the whole year. Our pressure was really good, they were getting tired and they didn't have the bench to help them out.”
The guards did their job on the defensive end, forcing the Raiders into 17 turnovers. And on the offensive end, LP-A could not slow down Goodhue's shooters in the first half.
Led by Taylor Buck's 4-for-6 shooting from the outside, the Wildcats hit 10 3-pointers in the opening 18 minutes en route to a 34-20 halftime lead. Nicholas hit three 3-pointers to start the game while Ben Opsahl was 2-for-2 from outside in the first half.
“It's pretty easy when all five of them are guarding the two guys next to me,” said Buck, pointing to teammates Ben Opsahl and Jacob McNamara. “I'm sitting wide open because of these two.”
Opsahl added, “We wanted to attack them. Attack the zone, don't be afraid of the big guy in the middle. We're inside-out, so we were attacking and kicking, looking for the shooters.”
Finally able to find a groove on offense, the Raiders cut the lead to 38-31 after a 3-pointer from Mitch Hall. But the Wildcats' high-efficiency attack resulted in a 19-0 run that took up nearly nine-and-a-half minutes.
“We knew they were going to make a run at some point and we weathered the storm the best we could,” Ben said. “We knew we'd score points so we tried to slow them down as much as possible and get the ball back.”
Nicholas led Goodhue with 15 points along with four steals and three rebounds, followed by 12 points from Buck and 10 from Opsahl. McNamara added eight points, five rebounds and four assists, and Lucas Thomforde had a team-high five steals in the victory.
Bergh neared a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds while Grant Pederson added 10 points and four steals for the Raiders. Bergh came into the game averaging 23.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.
Friday, Goodhue (29-3) will face unseeded North Woods after the Grizzles upset third-seeded Central Minnesota Christian 54-51 after Cade Goggleye hit the game-winning shot from half-court as time expired.