Cass Lake-Bena coaches and players vowed all season that close games would not be their undoing.
They never wavered Thursday in the Class 1A quarterfinal game against Rushford-Peterson, even after buzzer-beating shots by the Trojans forced two overtime sessions.
In what Rushford-Peterson coach Tom Vix called a game of wills, Cass Lake-Bena displayed the most fortitude in a 63-61 victory.
No. 3 seed Cass Lake-Bena (30-1) went ahead to stay on Ethan Brown's two free throws with 9.8 seconds left in the second overtime.
Brown's calmness at the line belied the two wild shots that kept Rushford-Peterson (23-8) alive.
Payton Hahn's three-pointer tied the game 49-49 at the end of regulation. Teammate Ben Ansell's rebound and put-back forced a second overtime.
"I felt really good about our chances there," Ansell said. "But you've got to give credit to them because they just kept fighting."
Rushford-Peterson's staying power did not faze the Panthers.
"We said each overtime that it's a brand new game," Cass Lake-Bena senior guard Arnold Kingbird said. "If we score more than them, we win."
Brown went to the free-throw line with a 61-60 lead and made the first.
"I went up to him and said, 'Come on, bro. One more,' " Kingbird said.
Brown sank the second and this time, Rushford-Peterson could not respond.
DAVID LA VAQUE
North Woods 74, Heritage Christian 36: Underdogs at the state tournament a year ago, No. 2 seed North Woods wore the favorite tag well.
The Grizzlies (30-1) of Cook ran to a double-digit lead with 9:30 to go in the first half and denied the Eagles any chance to get closer. TJ Guggenberger and Tate Olson made three-pointers and Cade Goggleye drained a pair from deep to build the 16-5 advantage.
"[Assistant] coach [Jerry] Chiabotti told me to just keep shooting and it paid off," said Goggleye, whose buzzer-beater from beyond halfcourt to win last year's quarterfinal game was aired on ESPN.
Goggleye led all scorers with 23 points.
"They have three or four good perimeter shooters and they spread out our zone, which had been working in games lately," said Ben Allen, a senior guard at Heritage Christian Academy. "They just tore our defense apart."
Allen's Eagles (13-18) were state tournament newcomers out of Maple Grove.
A year ago, North Woods was the unseeded team making its state tournament debut. The Grizzlies brought a new higher profile but same underdog spirit into Thursday's game.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Mayer Lutheran 71, Mahnomen-Waubun 40: Guard Kobey Woolhouse scored eight of Mayer Lutheran's first 10 points in the first half as they raced out to a 14-0 lead against Mahnomen-Waubun. From there, the Crusaders turned the game into a blowout.
"I've been super excited this whole week," said Woolhouse, who finished with 16 points in the game. "When I got on the floor, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity my teammates gave me."
The Crusaders' Baden Noennig scored a game-high 17 points.
Mayer Lutheran (28-3) built a 39-18 lead over Mahnomen-Waubun (18-12) at halftime.
"The stage, we're just soaking it up," said Crusaders coach Patrick Buchanan, in his first year leading the team. "I don't think it bothers them at all. I think they're enjoying it."
Mahnomen-Waubun reached the tournament after its first season as a co-op. The Thunderbirds' Treston Spalla led his team with 12 points.
"They have a great defense," Spalla said of the Crusaders. "I could not get to the rim."
Mahnomen-Waubun coach John Clark Jr. said that his team set the tone in its first season together.
"I don't think they realize how important it is to our communities," Clarke Jr. said. "It's going to inspire so many younger kids to practice basketball."
Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 87, Hinckley-Finlayson 70: With no starter taller than 6-1, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton has to depend on other things to win basketball games.
"We're not the biggest of teams," said Knights coach Ted Kern. "We have to rely on our transition game off of our pressure defense."
The Knights (31-1) used 15 steals and shot 59 percent from the field to pull away from the Jaguars (26-5).
"They're quick and athletic," said Jaguars coach Dan Kreft. "They got their hands on a lot of our passes."
Five players each had three steals for the Knights, who are averaging 14 steals per game.
Hinckley-Finlayson's Travis Visser scored 11 points in the first five minutes to help the Jaguars open a 16-12 advantage.
But the Knights responded with a 22-5 run to take a 34-21 lead with six minutes left in the first half.
The Knights, who led 46-34 at halftime, began the second half with a 10-2 run to open an 18-point lead.
The Jaguars managed to get within seven midway through the second half, but couldn't get closer.
Garrett Kern scored 29 points, Westin Kirk scored 20 and Carter Hansen added 16 for the Knights.
Visser finished with 18 points and Lavone Kroschel scored 15 to lead the Jaguars.