It was billed as a mismatch. It had an opportunity to be exactly that, but Albany wasn’t bound to back down from No. 1 DeLaSalle.
The top-ranked Islanders overcame periods of sloppy play and a late three-point barrage by Albany to escape with a 70-60 victory in the Class 3A quarterfinals Wednesday at Williams Arena. The Islanders (25-4) will face Mankato East (20-9) in the semifinals at noon Thursday at Target Center.
DeLaSalle is seeking to become the third school to win four consecutive state championships. Minneapolis Henry achieved the feat from 2000-2003, also in Class 3A. Southwest Minnesota Christian did likewise from 1999-2002 in Class 1A.
“Every group is different,” Islanders coach Dave Thorson said. “This one has been under a lot of pressure all year.”
His squad isn’t nearly as polished as his previous three championship squads, and doesn’t have the calming effect of Reid Travis, now a Stanford power forward, in the middle. It was evident from the outset against the Huskies (26-4).
“We don’t have the inside presence of the past three years,” Thorson said. “We’re more of a perimeter team.”
It took freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur coming in off the bench to bring rhythm to the Islanders’ offense. Kalscheur had seven points, two above his season average, midway through the first half. His spark turned an early 5-all deadlock into a 20-10 Islanders lead.
DeLaSalle took that 10-point cushion, 29-19, in the locker room at halftime. Kalscheur was the Islanders’ leading scorer at the intermission with 10 points. He also had four rebounds and one assist in 12 minutes of action.
“I try to provide a spark on offense when I come in,” Kalscheur said. “I think my aggressiveness inspired our seniors in the second half.”
The Islanders’ Sacar Anim, a Marquette recruit, was held to six points in the first half. Gophers recruit Jarvis Johnson had just four points at halftime. The senior guards, who are the team’s leading scorers, were a combined 4-for-13 from the floor.
Anim, who averages 23.6 points per game, and Johnson took over in the second half. Anim scored the Islanders’ first 10 points after intermission and it appeared a rout was on. The Islanders’ lead quickly vaulted to 45-27.
Anim finished with a game-high 22 points while Johnson wound up with 14.
Mankato East 65, New Prague 60
New Prague and Mankato East could have easily thought they were playing against themselves in their Class 3A quarterfinal.
The two teams mirrored each other — not an overabundance of size and looking to get out in transition at every opportunity. Any time one team would go on a run, the other would come right back and do likewise.
That was until New Prague tried to slow down the pace with a nine-point lead and 10 minutes left in the second half. The move would backfire on the Trojans.
Mankato East closed the game on a 23-9 run, rallying for a 65-60 victory. The Cougars (21-9) will meet No. 1-ranked DeLaSalle (25-4) in the semifinals Thursday at Target Center at noon.
New Prague (20-9) used four three-pointers, three by senior forward James Fuerniss, to take a 51-42 lead eight minutes into the second half. The Cougars gradually chipped away at New Prague’s lead over the next six minutes, overtaking them for good on junior forward CJ Ayers’ three-pointer with 4 minutes, 4 seconds left.
Senior guard Gorg Alhag led Mankato East with a game-high 16 points.
St. Paul Johnson 59, Hermantown 56
No. 2 St. Paul Johnson’s athleticism and quickness on the defensive end bailed it out in the final minute of a victory over a pesky Hermantown squad. The Governors (26-3) will face Waconia (17-13) in the semifinals Thursday at Target Center.
“We were really lucky,” Governors senior guard Jalen Mobley said. “You should never win a game when you shoot 29 percent (20-for-70).”
Hermantown junior guard Thomas Madison’s fade-away three-point try to tie the game at the buzzer rimmed out. Madison had a game-high 20 points for the Hawks (24-6), who shot 34 percent from the floor, didn’t score on their final four possessions and committed 30 turnovers.
“The only thing we did right was play defense,” Governors coach Vernon Simmons said.
Mobley made two free throws with 11.6 seconds left, giving the Governors a three-point lead. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.
Waconia 73, Orono 68
Waconia, in defeating conference foe Orono, won its fourth consecutive game, the Wildcats' longest streak of the year.
Waconia (17-13) endured losing streaks of five and three games during the season. They opened the year as a top-10 team.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride,” said Wildcats senior forward Oliver Smith, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Senior guard Cole Hennings and junior forward Samuel Sustacek each had 18 points for the Spartans (24-6).