Cooper and Elk River watched their edges shrink from comfortable to tiny, but they stabilized and advanced to the semifinals.
The moral to be learned from Wednesday's upper-bracket quarterfinals in the Class 4A boys' basketball tournament is this: Don't dig a deep hole, because getting back out is treacherous.
Cooper and Elk River both built big leads and withstood strong rallies to advance to today's 6 p.m. big-school semifinal at Target Center.
Elk River coach Randy Klasen said his Elks, as usual, will play to their strength against Cooper by putting defensive pressure on the ball. Another key for the Elks (27-3) will be if 6-3 senior forward Ryan Schiltz can move better. He sprained an ankle while scoring 21 points in their section final and had only two points Wednesday.
Cooper (23-3) will counter with what coach Kurt Pauly call his three-headed monster -- Jefferson Mason, Dennis Williamson and Jermain Davis -- who average between 14.5 and 22 points.
A recap of the upper-bracket quarterfinals:
Cooper 66, Richfield 60: Down by 19 points at 48-29 with 11 minutes, 29 seconds to play, the Spartans (21-7) rallied impressively behind the hot hand of junior guard Santino Clay to catch -- and briefly pass -- the Hawks in regulation before losing in overtime.
Clay scored a game-high 29 points, 23 after halftime.
But it was Cooper's Davis who made the biggest shots. With the score 57-57 going into overtime, the senior guard made an NBA three-pointer from the left wing on the Hawks' first possession. He followed that by slicing through the lane for a layup with 1:33 left to put Cooper ahead 62-57 -- enough of a lead to hang on.
"[Davis] is a tough kid from Chicago that came here, I think, in eighth grade," Cooper coach Kurt Pauly said. "And he plays like a tough kid."
Davis, who walked off the court with a cramp, scored 21 points, making five of eight three-point attempts.
Elk River 75, Woodbury 67: The Elks, No. 7 in Minnesota Basketball News' final state ratings, took a 10-0 lead in the first three minutes, and the Royals (21-9), despite closing the gap to one or two points three times in the second half, never caught up.
Sam Halverson made two three-pointers in Elk River's opening run and finished with four threes and 23 points. Teammate Tyler Macomber, a 6-4 senior center, celebrated his 18th birthday in style by scoring a game-high 29 points (on 12-of-16 shooting), 19 in the second half.
Nico Holmes' three-pointer with 11:52 to play had Woodbury within 47-46, but Macomber answered with a three-point play. The Royals never got closer than three points after that.