This was the game Champlin Park was waiting for. After a season of routing opponents, the undefeated Rebels saw Monday night’s game at Maple Grove as a measuring stick.
The Rebels, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, didn’t ace this test, but they came close, outlasting the No. 2 Crimson 70-60 in front of a packed house of 2,400 that forced police to close the doors a half-hour before game time.
“This was a game our guys had circled,” Champlin Park coach Mark Tuchscherer said. “Against a good team in a hostile environment. I thought we handled it well.”
The Rebels (18-0) got 24 points from guard McKinley Wright III and 12 from guard Marcus Hill, but contributions from unsung bench players proved just as crucial.
Guard Josiah Strong, normally the sixth man, made a spot start in place of D.J. Hunter and contributed eight points. And with Champlin Park leading 47-37 in the second half and center Theo John forced to sit with four fouls, the Rebels didn’t allow Maple Grove to make headway thanks to the rugged inside play of little-used senior Irvin Russell and the pinpoint accuracy of Bennett Otto, who twice sapped Crimson momentum with dagger-like three pointers.
“Irv really stepped up when we needed him and Otto, he’s cold-blooded,” Tuchscherer said. “That shows how deep a team we are.”
Maple Grove (15-2) was led by guard Brad Davison, who battled for 25 points before fouling out. But Davison and guard Tywhon Pickford, who added 20, were just about all the offense the Crimson could muster.
“We just couldn’t get shots to drop,” Maple Grove coach Nick Schroeder said. “We wanted to keep them under 70 points and we just about did that, but our shots just wouldn’t fall.”
Wright said this was just the type of game his team needed. “They’re a really good team, so we had to execute well and we did that,” he said. “This shows we can play with anybody.”