Fouling out of his team's quarterfinal game against Fergus Falls relegated Columbia Heights starting point guard Quintin Hardrict to a cheerleading role Wednesday at Williams Arena.
Putting aside frustration, Hardrict supported his teammates as Fergus Falls cut the Hylanders' second-half lead from 20 points to just two. Despite the scare, Columbia Heights escaped with a 77-74 victory in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
"I knew that if we kept playing hard, making free throws and getting stops, that we would come away with a win," said Hardrict, who scored 19 points before sitting down for good with 2:25 to play. "I was confident."
So was No. 4 seed Fergus Falls (25-5). The Otters recaptured their shooting form after a 25 percent first-half showing. Matthew Monke's three-pointer cut Fergus Falls' deficit to 70-68 with 1:05 left.
"We never gave up," said Monke, who finished with 16 points. "Even down 20, we felt we could win because we're a great shooting team."
Junior forward Wendell Matthews carried the No. 5-seeded Hylanders (22-8) late, scoring five of their final seven points.
"When we lost Q we lost a really good ballhandler and that really scared me," Columbia Heights coach Willie Braziel said. "I just was hoping we could hang on, and we did."
DAVID LA VAQUE
DeLaSalle 55, Big Lake 47: Unexpected tension built as the Hornets played nothing like a wide-eyed state tournament newcomer and the Islanders slipped off their five-time defending champion pace.
Big Lake led by three midway through the second half before the top-seeded Islanders rallied.
"We knew we had to fight every possession because they were giving us probably the best game they've played," said Islanders' junior guard Gabe Kalscheur, who led all scorers with 23 points.
With Gophers coach Richard Pitino on hand, Kalscheur scored 17 points in a first half that otherwise saw the DeLaSalle offense struggle.
"In the second half, our jump shots were more in the flow of the offense," Islanders coach Dave Thorson said. "We settled early and took a whole bunch of jumpers and didn't get the ball into the short corner or the lane. You have to give credit to Big Lake for some of that because they played well."
After Big Lake (20-10) took a 37-34 lead with 8:39 to play, DeLaSalle (25-3) outscored the Hornets 21-10 down the stretch.
"We thought we could win, so this one hurts," Big Lake coach Kyle Johnson said.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Austin 55, St. Thomas Academy 49: Good outside shooting in the first half and a solid defense helped the Packers outlast the Cadets.
Austin (28-2), which was shooting 40 percent from three-point range going into the game, made six of 11 three-pointers to build a 31-23 halftime lead.
The Packers led by as many as 12 points in the second half, before the Cadets (23-7) got within five with 5:54 left. But Austin didn't let the Cadets get any closer and the Packers made seven of eight free throws in the final two minutes to hold on.
"We played a solid first half," Austin coach Kris Fadness said. "We like to play a faster tempo. I thought they did a good job defensively on us. They are a well-coached team."
Duoth Gach scored 17 points and his brother, Both, scored 14 to lead the Packers. Duoth Gach was five of eight from three-point range, including four of five in the first half.
Sam Vascellaro led the Cadets with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
"I give our guys credit," Cadets coach Jason Birr said. "We've been preaching mental toughness all year, especially when the stakes are tough. We got down by 12, but we got some stops.
"They [the Packers] did a good job of sticking to our shooters. We couldn't get good looks."
Marshall 83, Grand Rapids 64: Pressure defense and hot shooting enabled the Tigers (27-3) to get ahead of the Thunderhawks early and Marshall rode the momentum to victory.
The third-seeded Tigers shot 53 percent from the floor in the first half, making six of 11 three-pointers, to build a 44-28 lead.
That shot-making allowed them to full-court press and the Tigers forced the Thunderhawks into eight first-half turnovers.
"We don't really like slowing it down," Tigers senior forward Reece Winkelman said. "We hate playing to other team's speed. We like to set the pace right away."
The Tigers had five players finish in double figures, led by Winkelman's 17. He also had 10 rebounds. Mitchell Sueker had 15 points, Zach Bloemker and Trey Lance had 14 each and Weston Baker Magrath had 12.
The Thunderhawks' Jake Skelly had 33 points to keep the game from getting too much out of hand.
Gand Rapids (24-6) cut into a large deficit in the second half but could not get it down to single digits.
"Everyone wants to get it all back at once," Skelly said. "But you can't. You have to get some stops on defense and chip away at it. We just had a hard time getting stops."