Unselfish basketball and relentless defense helped Melrose defeat St. Croix Lutheran 55-40 in a Class 2A boys’ basketball semifinal at Target Center.
The Dutchmen are only one victory away from claiming their first state title since 1974.
“I’m kind of surprised,” said sophomore guard Dillon Haider, who had a game-high 19 points. “At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t really expecting it. But I started believing the farther we got. … I thought we’d be good. I didn’t think we’d be state championship-worthy, but I guess we are.”
Melrose dominated most of the game, shooting 50 percent from the field. The Dutchmen (27-5) led 25-13 at halftime, with 10 of their 11 field goals coming off assists, after going on a 12-0 run midway through the first half to take the lead. Junior forward Colton Meyer had four points and an assist during the stretch. He finished with 12 points on six-for-seven shooting.
“Colton Meyer is by far the smartest player on the team,” Melrose coach Ryan Dusha said. “He’s always in the right spot.”
The Crusaders (29-3) shot only 33.3 percent. Junior guard Ade Lamu scored 18 points on nine-for-20 shooting. He also had nine rebounds.
St. Croix Lutheran made only six of 21 shots from the field in the first half, missing all four three-point attempts, and finished only two of 13 from behind the arc. Junior forward Trenton Krueger added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Crusaders.
“The ride has been fun,” Dusha said. “It’s the journey, not the destination. But if we were to win a state championship, it’d be an amazing feat for these guys. The community probably wouldn’t sleep for a week.”
Caledonia 74, Maple River 58: The Warriors won’t participate in the third-place game this year. Instead, it’ll be playing for a Class 2A title.
The Warriors defeated Maple River to advance to the championship game. They finished third last year and were determined not to lose in the semifinals for a second consecutive season.
“More businesslike,” said Caledonia coach Josh Diersen, describing this year’s run. “I think any team that’s been to state [has experienced] just not executing; our guys are executing better and there’s still one more game here.”
Caledonia led the entire game as both teams got off to a slow start. The Warriors found their touch after the first five minutes, jumping out to a 40-19 lead at halftime.
Freshman Owen King led the Warriors (28-4) with 18 points, shooting four of seven on three-pointers. Senior guard Kyle Sorenson added 17 points and nine rebounds.
“Defense started it all,” King said. “Once we got defensive stops, we pushed it as fast as we can. That gave us open looks.”
Maple River (28-4), based in Mapleton, couldn’t overcome its early woes, shooting 29.2 percent in the first half and committing 11 turnovers. They shot 36.7 percent in the game.
Senior guard Jonah Breiter led Maple River with 18 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Jeff Lewis also had 15 points.
Caledonia will get a shot at its second state title, and first since 1997, when it faces Melrose on Saturday in the championship game. Diersen was part of the 1997 state title team.
“Two different teams,” Diersen said. “These guys are so skilled — shooting-wise, passing-wise. … It’s a fun group to watch with the tempo we play.”