This was exactly what Park Center coach James Ware intended when he put his team through the wringer with the alumni during practices. The No. 1-ranked Pirates were going to learn how to handle anything an opponent could throw at them.

The Pirates reached back to those bruising lessons when they needed it Thursday, rallying from a five-point deficit with 3 minutes, 59 seconds left to pull out a 61-56 victory over Eastview in the Class 4A semifinals of the boys basketball state tournament at Target Center.

Eastview, long and athletic, muddied up the game, playing a physical style that gave Park Center fits.

Ware said his team welcomed Eastview's bruising approach.

"We're OK with the physical game," he said. "We talk about running to the fight. By that we mean when there's a scrum, a loose ball, a rebound, we run to it, not away from it."

Not that Eastview's strategy didn't affect the game. Park Center played most of the first half, and much of the game, without 6-9 forward Chiang Ring because of foul trouble. Leading scorer C.J. O'Hara was never able to find an offensive groove.

But the deep and talented Pirates had other options. Guard Casmir "Cash" Chavis was strong and creative with the ball and led the team with 21 points. Jackson Fowlkes' 13 points helped pick up the offensive slack.

When asked if Eastview or the Pirates alumni were the more physical team, Fowlkes smiled. "The alumni," he said.

O'Hara, battling through a tough outing, sparked Park Center's rally in the final four minutes. He had two steals and two dunks as the Pirates made a 9-0 run to take a 57-53 lead.

"I was very frustrated," O'Hara said. "I had to get out of my head. Luckily I had my teammates there to keep me in the game."