The Red Lake contingent chanted in unison “de-fense, de-fense, de-fense.” It’s a word not synonymous with the Warriors.
It caught Maranatha coach Jeff Wall and his Mustangs off guard. Halftime couldn’t come soon enough for the No. 3-ranked team. Wall needed to come up with a solution to solve Red Lake’s defensive intensity — match it.
Maranatha (28-2) did just that. The Mustangs limited Red Lake (23-6) to seven field goals and 19 points after intermission, overcoming a 12-point halftime deficit for a 59-55 victory in the Class 1A quarterfinals on Thursday at Williams Arena.
“You have to give Red Lake a lot of credit,” Wall said. “They played extremely hard, and extremely intense. They are certainly a much-improved team defensively over a year ago.”
The game was a rematch of a quarterfinal last year, which Maranatha won 95-67.
“I think we thought it was going to be a lot like last year,” Mustangs senior forward Jeremiah Hanson said. “We were caught off-guard.”
Hanson’s steal and layup with 23 seconds left broke a 55-all tie. The school’s all-time leading scorer finished with 18 points and 4 steals.
Senior Jake Meyen capped the comeback with two free throws with one second left. Meyen, who had a game-high 21 points, made one of two free-throw attempts with 29 seconds left. His make tied it at 55, and his miss led to Hanson’s game-winning steal and layup.
“It was all pretty lucky,” Hanson said. “That was a big break for us.”
Red Lake missed a shot with 14 seconds left, and Mustangs junior guard Damario Armstrong came up with a steal nine seconds later. It was his seventh steal to go along with 13 points.
“I was really proud of our defense in the second half,” Wall said. Red Lake shot 27 percent from the floor after intermission. “The kids played with a lot of heart.”
The Warriors, (23-6), took a 55-54 lead on sophomore guard Rob Mclain’s driving layup with 51 seconds left. The athletic and active Mclain had 8 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocked shots before fouling out in the final second.
“He wasn’t letting us get to the basket,” Hanson said.
The Warriors built a 12-point halftime lead, 36-24, with tenacious defense. They limited Maranatha to eight field goals and forced 12 turnovers in the first half.
“It’s playoff time,” Meyen said. “We had to come back. Lose, and your done.”
Rushford-Peterson 105, Fond du Lac Ojibwe 58: There’s a reason the Trojans are ranked No. 1. — they are the best team in Class 1A.
Rushford-Peterson (30-1) did whatever it wanted offensively against the Ogichidaag. They posted up, beat their defenders off the dribble and buried three-pointers while rolling to an easy win.
Senior guard Charlie Krambeer set the tone at the outset from three-point range. He scored 28 points — more than twice as many as his season average of 13.5 points per game — in the first half as the Trojans built a 61-27 lead. Krambeer made six of seven three-pointers and had four assists.
“I was just in the heat of the moment,” said Krambeer, who finished with a career-high 33 points. “I’m just happy I was able to help my teammates in a positive way.”
When the Trojans wanted to work the ball inside, they looked for senior Kyler Paulson. He had 10 of his 14 points at the intermission.
“I don’t know if we can play any better offensively,” Trojans coach Tom Vix said.
The Trojans shot 64 percent from the floor and had 33 assists on their 41 field goals. They eclipsed the century mark with four minutes remaining.
“That was a great offensive display,” Paulson said. “It was a unique experience.”
Battle Lake 83, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 66: The Battlers had one thing on the back of their mind — Maranatha. But first they had to take care of business against the Falcons.
No. 4-rated Battle Lake (30-1) never trailed in rolling past Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (21-10).
“We played pretty well, and got the job done,” Battlers senior forward Nick Trosdahl said. He led four players in double figures with 19 points. “We kept the pedal on the metal.”
With the win, the Battlers get exactly what they wanted, a rematch with Maranatha. Battle Lake’s only blemish on the season is a 68-61 loss to Maranatha in December.
“It will be fun to get another shot at them,” Trosdahl said. “They’re a lot like us. I think we have a shot [at beating them].”
Battle Lake juniors Andrew VanErp (18 points) and Tony Ukkleberg (12) and sophomore Eric VanErp (11) were also in double digits.
Central Minnesota Christian 56, Nevis 47: The Bluejays’ keys to success — balance and defense — have propelled them within two games of a state championship.
Central Minnesota Christian (24-3) limited Nevis (26-4) to 32 percent shooting and forced 15 turnovers.
“We pride ourselves on getting stops,” Bluejays coach Ted Taatjes said. “Our defense held us in it. We made them work for everything.”
The Bluejays held Nevis scoreless for nearly a four-minute stretch early in the second half when they extended a 1-point lead to 10. Nevis missed four shots and turned the ball over twice during that stretch.
Junior Taylor Slagter had 17 points to pace the Bluejays. Senior Austin Bulthuis and sophomore Matthew Van Eps each added 13 points.
“Our defense is what helps us win games,” Bulthuis said. “Since Day 1 it’s been defense, defense, defense for us.”