Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blogging Live from Williams Arena Minnesota Boys A State Tournament Quarter-Finals

Grand Rapids leads DeLaSalle by 1 with 4:30 left.

Wow. I guess Johnson beat Winona 80-55. It was closer than that, Winona led last at 46-45, so Johnson closed it out on a 35-9 run. Ouch.

Mesabi East vs. Sebeka

Final: Sebeka 75 Mesabi East 51. MTC Coach John Sherman ended up sitting next to me for the 2nd half of this game and I kept wondering what he was thinking about Sebeka. Probably nothing. You know, one game at a time and all of that, and tomorrow he's got Rushford-Pete. But if he gets Sebeka somewhere along the way, he'll be facing an outstanding Class A team with 5 outstanding starters. Their bench is a little thin but, hey, so is MTC's.

Joey Cuperus finished with 22 points, Cody Pulju 21, John Clark 16 and Alex Brockpahler 10 for Sebeka. Clark had 10 boards, while Ryan Sharp, Pulju and Brockpahler had 6, 5 and 4 assists.

Are there any weaknesses? Well, they're not an outside shooing team, making just 2-of-15 3s and 11-of-19 free throws. But that didn't matter today.

5:01 Sebeka 71-39. Starters out. Coach Jon Lillquist figured it was time when Ryan Sharp went behind his back with the pass to John Clark for the fast break lay-up and the 71-39 lead.

9:16 Sebeka 60-31. Another possible running time game.

12:13 Sebeka 54-31. The turnovers are 15-2, so obviously Mesabi isn't quick enough to disrupt the Sebeka offense too much. Yet the Trojans' shooting edge is only 48 percent versus 40 percent.

14:39 Mesabi just doesn't handle the ball well enough, they're on their heels, and they not getting to the spots that they want. Sebeka's full court pressure is just devastating them, turnover or not.

16:01 Sebeka 47 Mesabi 27. Sebeka is a great looking Class A team, though how much their lack of depth might hurt remains to be seen, and probably not today.

At the half, it's Sebeka big time, 40-20. In the last few minutes, Mesabi's offense became completely disrupted and out of synch, and Sebeka got numerous steals and fast break lay-ups. The punctuation mark was a Joey Cuperus dunk on a fast break at 1:32. His teammate Alex Brockpahler got 3 more steals before the end of the half, resulting in 6 more quick points. Points off turnovers are Sebeka 15 Mesabi 0.

3:33 A 2+1 by Joey Cuperus and fast break basket by Cody Pulju makes it 28-18 and Mesabi uses another timeout.

4:16 Sebeka leads 23-18, but Mesabi's Travis Whiting has a great looking jump shot, and he has made 3-of-4 that he has attempted.

10:00 Sebeka leads 13-12. Mesabi is shooting better but it's turning the ball over, 5 times to 1 for Sebeka. Mesabi's E.J. Welch leads all players with 6 points and 4 boards.

13:51 Sebeka has drawn first blood, taking a 7-4 lead and forcing a Mesabi timeout. True to form, 4 different Sebeka players have scored. Meanwhile, Mesabi's Marcus Miranda is penetrating into the lane and dishing off to E. J. Welch, who has all 4 Mesabi points.

Well, the Mesabi East fans are the loudest we've heard yet today, at least during the introductions.

And you don't see this every day. Sebeka's starters wear #s 1-2-3-4-5. And they all average in double digits. But nobody else for the Trojans scores even 2 points a game.

Minnesota Transitions 69 Cass Lake-Bena 47

0:00 Tyler Trosen and Ben Cameron combined for 31 points and 16 boards for CLB. But the story is that MTC showed that they can do more than just run and gun. They played the game the right way today, even aside from the fact that the played it very very well.

1:54 Now 66-44. Kevin Noreen has been well covered today until the shot goes up. Then he has gotten to the basket for 22 rebounds, and so he's now got 20 points, many of them off the offensive glass.

4:20 Now 58-42. This will be a disappointing finish to Martin Wind's great career. Not just a loss, but he's now 2-for-16 from the field with 6 points. But he did just throw a no-look pass with his right hand over his left shoulder to Tyler Trosen for an easy lay-up. Good show.

5:00 You thought MTC was going to bludgeon them. Me, too. This is a surgical job. MTC is taking what's given and giving nothing. Kevin Noreen's not open? Rodney Owens and D'Angelo Potter have 28 points between 'em.

8:05 MTC 48-35. The Noreens are pickin' 'em apart now, playing keep away until somebody breaks open via the back door for an easy lay-up.

10:58 Kyle Noreen is doing a great job of running the show for MTC, especially against the CLB pressure.

11:52 Noreen gets a put-back and Caleb Fisher a CLB bucket and it's 40-31.

12:30 And suddenly 38-29 after Kevin Noreen missed a pair of throws.

14:45 Martin Wind finally hits his 1st 3 of the day and suddenly its 36-25.

15:28 MTC 36-19. I gotta tell ya, a lot of people are down on MTC for whatever reason, but they play the game the right way. Today they're playing an opponent that knows how to play at a fast pace and they've deliberately gone the other way. First they're just protecting the ball and moving it around and keeping it safe. Then they're looking for the shot. And only then is there anything fancy. Meanwhile, if Kevin Noreen is covered, and he usually is today, he finds somebody to shoot a lay-up for his team.

At the half: Minnesota Transitions 31 Cass Lake-Bena 16. Well, this is certainly not the pace we expected. Cass Lake's D has been fine. They've doubled and tripled Kevin Noreen to good effect. He's 2 for 6 from the field for 5 points, though he also has 9 boards, 4 assists and 2 blocks. As a result MTC has held the ball a couple times, trying to pull CLB out of their 2-3 zone, though CLB has not yet taken the bait. Rodney Owens has picked up the slack, by the way, with 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

The deal-breaker in this game so far, however, is CLB's 6-for-26 (23 percent) shooting, including 1-for-8 for Martin Wind, who has scored more than 2,500 points in his career. If he doesn't get hot, the Panthers are in trouble.

Also MTC has 7 offensive boards and CLB only 4 defensive boards, and the assists are 9-2 MTC. So a lot of things are going right for the Wolves right now even if this isn't really their kind of pace. I would think we'd see a faster pace in the 2nd half as the Panthers will need to do something to try to get back into it.

4:17 MTC 22 CLB 16. Somebody said Cass Lake doesn't know how to slow it down, but I guess they do, and MTC, too. Both teams know how to play at a high pace and how to stop a high pace, right now they're intent on stopping.

5:56 Kevin Noreen just scored his first 2 points, it's 18-12 MTC.

9:21 MTC leads 16-7. Rodney Owens has 9 for MTC as Cass Lake is doubling and tripling down on Kevin Noreen who has not scored but has 3 assists, 7 boards and a couple blocks. Right now MTC is holding the ball, trying to force CLB out of the zone D. They're still in a zone but have extended it to pick up the pace.

12:55 Just that fast, Ben Cameron hits a 2 and Martin Wind a 3 and it's 8-5 and Transitions wants to talk.

14:00 They talk about winning 4 minute segments. Well, Transitions won the 1st one 8-0, and Kevin Noreen hasn't scored yet, but he's got a couple assists. Rodney Owens has 3 buckets, all on the inside.

I'm going to try not to blink. I said Transitions would hit 100 around the 9:00 mark, and my buddy Stew asked, Which half?

Rushford-Peterson vs. Springfield

Final score: Rushford Peterson 71 Springfield 63. The Springfield Tigers are going to be wondering how this one got away. Up by 10 at the half, averaging 6-6 across the front versus RP's 5-11, they were in still a 1-possession game at the 1:00 mark. But the Tigers failed to score from 3:36 down to garbage time while RP scored 14 straight points. Guards Blake Lea and Kasey Olloff scored 18 and 24 points for RP but it was 6-4 sophomore forward Nick Thompson who came off the bench to hit 3 3s in the 2nd half, including 1 that tied it up at 60-all and another that gave TP the lead for good at 63-60.

Despite their size Springfield got just 1 offensive board in the 2nd half and I don't think there were too many loose balls that went their way. As the fellow sitting next to me here said, the better team doesn't always win, but in this case the one that's more hard-nosed usually does.

0:38 RP 69-60 on 4 foul shots by Olloff after an intentional foul.

1:00 RP 63 Springfield 60 on a pair of Nick Thompson 3s.

4:17 Springfield 58 RP 57 and timeout on the floor. Trading buckets now. The Tigers look tired. RP's guards are penetrating and dishing for easy lay-ups. 2 Tyler Marx throws give his team the lead. RP leads 24-15 on 2nd half points and has some momentum. The slower pace suits them, too.

5:45 53-53 as Milbrath gets another fast break layup.

6:57 RP 53 Springfield 51. Another full minute possession resulting in an RP lay-up by Nic Duneman. The Tigers big men look tired, they're getting out-hustled for rebounds now and have short-arm3e 2 throws.

8:12 51-51. RP slowing it down now, a 1:10 possession. Neither team has scored for over 2 minutes, but Springfield is now in the bonus but missed the throw. The Tigers have only 2 fouls.

11:17 RP takes its 1st lead since 3-2 on a 3 from the right corner, this time by Nick Thompson. Still, it's Lee and Olloff with 13 of RP's 18 points this half, and it was Olloff's assist that set of Thompson's bucket. Not only that but RP snuck a couple of inside buckets in there, too.

15:08 The 2nd half started the way the 1st half went. RP's Lee and Olloff each hit a 3, while 6-8 Tyler Marz hit a pair of lay-ups for Springfield.

At the half: Springfield 43 Rushford-Pete 33. The Springfield Tigers have used their height to get inside where they've made 9-of-15 FG attempts. RP, meanwhile, has put it up mostly from the outside, making 6-of-14, to keep the game close through most of the 1st half. But here's the catch. The Tigers are making their 3s, too--7-of-11. It's hard to see RP's under-sized zone defense slowing the Tigers' offense down in the 2nd half. But the Trojans coach Tom Vix is one of the best in the business, so we'll see what he comes up with in the 2nd half. He's scoring enough--with 23 of RP's 29 points coming from guards Blake Lee and Kasey Olloff. But he can't give up another 43.

The Tigers top scorers at the half are smooth 6-6 senior forward Jordan Milbrath with 13. That would be Mr. Inside, though it's true that several of his buckets have come in transition, but still inside. Meanwhile, junior guard Jesse Kieper has 9 points on 3 3s. Otherwise the numbers are pretty even, but Springfield's shots, whether inside or out, have been pretty much uncontested.

Springfield starts 6-8, 6-6 and 6-3, with 6-5 off the bench. RP starts 6-2, 6-0 and 3 guards, so it's a major contrast in styles. Springfield also opened in a man, and RP in a zone. Not to mention, the Tigers come in at 25-1 and RP with just 15 wins and 14 losses, but it's true that the Trojans play in a conference with a mix of AA and A schools. It's playoff games, limited obviously to Class A schools, were won by an average of 12 points, the Tigers' by 23, but over 30 until a 1-point win in the section finals against Lester Prairie.

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