Both winning small schools relied on their big men as a layup and block by 6-9 Zach Huisken lifted Southwest Minnesota Christian while 6-7 Connor Goodwin sparked Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa.
With his team ahead by two points with a tenth of a second left on the Target Center clock, Zach Huisken stood at the free throw line, fittingly the last one on his Southwest Minnesota Christian team to touch the ball.
Thanks to his efforts at the end of a tight Class 1A semifinal game with Rushford-Peterson, it didn't matter whether he made it.
His layup had kissed off the backboard and in with 61 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a two-point lead. The 6-9 center's block on the ensuing Rushford-Peterson possession ensured the 46-44 victory.
"All of his plays are pretty sweet," coach Jamie Pap said. "Zach just played a heck of a ballgame. He might not always score 25, 30 points a ballgame, but he makes huge plays."
Pap played with Southwest Minnesota Christian when it won the first of four Class 1A championships from 1999 through 2002. The Eagles are back in a title game for the first time since.
Andrew Top's 11 points paced the No. 2 seed Eagles (28-1), who got balanced scoring with seven apiece from Huisken (who also had 13 rebounds), Klint Knutson and Dominic Nibbelink.
The teams combined for just six points through the first six minutes of the second half before a track meet broke out.
Nibbelink and Trent Vix of No. 3 Rushford-Peterson (25-6) traded three-point baskets 20 seconds apart, igniting both crowds with 4:10 to play.
It was back and forth from there, with Huisken providing the biggest plays in the clutch.
"He's got the skills to play at the guard position," Top said. "He pretty much takes care of things for us."
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 56, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin 36
As the only Class 1A team in the Central Minnesota Conference, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa is used to a physical style of play against bigger teams. Throughout its undefeated season, it was sometimes the only way to survive.
So when Friday's semifinal game against Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin quickly went from an outside shooting party to a foul fest, Jaguars senior Connor Goodwin was in his element.
"Got some bruises on my hips, but I think I'll live through that," the 6-7 senior said after his team defeated the Wolverines 56-36 to advance to the championship game Saturday.
"We watched them [Thursday] at Williams Arena and knew they liked to push around. We knew it was going to come to that."
The unseeded Wolverines (25-5) connected on all five of their three-point attempts in the first half, prompting the top-seeded Jaguars (32-0) to switch to a man-to-man defense as halftime approached.
And the pushing began.
There were 34 fouls called. The whistles interrupted the flow of play and had a lot to do with both teams shooting just 31 percent.
Three Wolverines starters picked up three fouls apiece in the first half. The tentativeness from there spelled their doom; they scored just five points on 2-for-22 shooting in the second half.
"We wanted to be extra aggressive," Jaguars coach Dave Montbriand said. "I don't think we wowed anybody with our shooting, but our defense allowed us to pull away."
Goodwin led the Jaguars with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Brian Goodwin finished with 15 while Kirby Montbriand and Billy Borgerding each added 10 points.
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto||4||FINAL|
|Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez||1|
|LA Angels - WP: T. Skaggs||7||FINAL|
|Washington - LP: T. Jordan||2|
|Kansas City - WP: J. Shields||8||FINAL|
|Cleveland - LP: D. Salazar||2|
|Baltimore - LP: E. Meek||3||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: S. Delabar||9|
|Chicago WSox - LP: C. Leesman||6||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: J. Verlander||8|
|St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright||3||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: D. Gee||0|
|Miami - WP: J. Fernandez||1||FINAL|
|Atlanta - LP: A. Wood||0|
|Minnesota - LP: K. Gibson||3||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - WP: D. Price||7|
|NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka||9||FINAL|
|Boston - LP: J. Lester||3|
|Arizona - LP: B. McCarthy||2||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Hammel||9|
|San Diego - WP: D. Roach||2||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - LP: A. Figaro||1|
|San Francisco - LP: M. Bumgarner||1||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: F. Morales||2|
|Texas - WP: A. Ogando||5||FINAL|
|Oakland - LP: L. Gregerson||4|
|Houston - WP: C. McHugh||5||FINAL|
|Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez||2|
|Philadelphia - WP: A. Bastardo||3||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - LP: J. Howell||2|