East Ridge 77, Woodbury 41
That was the focus for both East Ridge and Woodbury on Wednesday night.
Woodbury started the game with a slower tempo similar to what the Royals did the last time they played East Ridge. The Raptors wanted to speed up the pace and continue scoring.
"It was a battle for tempo at the beginning of the game," said East Ridge head coach Bryce Tesdahl. "We started to use our full-court pressure to keep the tempo up and it helped us get an early lead."
The two teams played each other twice during the regular season. The first was a 74-42 win for East Ridge at Woodbury, but the second game was a close 67-60 win for the Raptors at home.
East Ridge started Wednesday's game with a strong push to gain a 12-5 lead over the Royals with about nine and half minutes left in the first half.
Then, Kendall Brown and Patrick Lynott each committed their second foul of the half and had to sit on the bench for the Raptors. Woodbury head coach Kent Getzlaff tried to take advantage of the lineup changes.
Instead, East Ridge junior Ben Carlson started a small dunk show to extend the lead for the Raptors. Along with Carlson, Courtney Brown Jr. and Zach Zebrowski were connecting from the 3-point line and the lead went from 12-5 to 28-12 with about four and a half minutes left in the first half.
"We kept pushing the pace and never slowing down on a possession," Zebrowski said. "That's what helped us get that lead and control the game early on."
At halftime, East Ridge led 40-18 over Woodbury and the lead continued to extend throughout the second half. The final horn echoed throughout the Perch as the Raptors advanced to the section semifinal game.
Carlson led the Raptors with 26 points, while Brown Jr. ended the night with 19 points. Brown and Zebrowski both scored in double digits with 13 and 10 points respectively.
McK Robertson led the Royals with 13 points, while Bradley Cimperman ended the night with 10 points. Parker McMorrow was right behind him with eight points.
As for Woodbury, the Royals season has come to an end.
"As hard as it was to take so many close games, we had 16 games on the year that were 10 points or less [in margin of victory] and we had seven games that were two points or less," Getzlaff said. "For a lot of kids that's going to take a real toll and these guys never let those things affect them. They just kept coming back every day to get better."
Getzlaff couldn't have been more proud of this team and how they handled each practice and each game throughout the season.
For the three seniors, Getzlaff said they will be missed next season but he knows they taught valuable lessons throughout the year to the younger players.
"Basketball is just a game, but the lessons it teaches you can carry you throughout your life," said Woodbury senior McK Robertson. "Those selfless lessons and putting your team before yourself will be forever in my mind."
The Royals graduate Robertson as well as Adam Mazur and Ryan Miller, but bring back a strong junior class. There are a handful of players that either started for Woodbury or contributed from the bench that will impact the team next season.
There are starters like sophomore Bradley Cimperman and Mac Lockner as well as junior Park McMorrow that will look to lead this team and grow from this 2018-19 season.
"I hope they understand the work that's put into each practice and game to get yourself and the team better," Mazur said. "We just want to show the younger guys what it takes to play and compete in a varsity game. The sky's the limit for this team in the future with players coming back. It'll be fun to watch them grow and compete next season."
Even though the season has come to an end for the Royals, East Ridge has at least one more game left to play in the season.
The mindset right now is going 1-0 for the next three games. The Raptors completed step one and are looking to step two on Monday, March 11.
East Ridge was originally supposed to play the semifinal game on Saturday, March 9, but the game was rescheduled to Monday, March 11 at 7 p.m. at Hastings High School due to the amount of snow coming on Saturday.
"We know we have the target on our back because we're the number one seed," Brown Jr. said. "But we've been working really well together and we're confident heading into this next game."
East Ridge's next opponent is the No. 5 seed St. Paul Central, who upset No. 4 seed White Bear Lake in the quarterfinals with an 80-73 final that took two overtimes to complete.
The Raptors are ready for the next challenge ahead of them and look forward to getting back on the court next Monday for a shot to reach the section finals on Thursday, March 14.
Park 92, Apple Valley 61
The senior class on the Park boys basketball team have always wanted to change the culture of this program ever since their freshman year.
On Tuesday night, the Wolfpack seniors did exactly that and more to leave a lasting impact on the high school and the program.
The No. 4 seed Park hosted a Section 3AAAA quarterfinals game on Tuesday night against the No. 5 seed Apple Valley. At first the nerves reached the basketball players, but after a few minutes they settled down and played their game of basketball.
"When we walked out of the locker room, we were amazed to see every seat filled in the gym," said senior Charlie Gorres. "That's always been a dream of ours and seeing it for the first time, it gave us some nervous energy to start the game."
The game started with an early lead for Apple Valley, but Park's head coach Mike Weah called a timeout knowing the situation.
"I told them that it's just a normal basketball game," Weah said. "They just need to do what they've been doing all season and after that timeout it seemed like they were ready to go."
Park went on multiple runs after that timeout to take a 38-31 lead at the half. That close lead lit a fire under the Park players as they wanted to extend that lead in the second half.
The Wolfpack came out firing on all cylinders with offensive production and a strong defensive presence both out on the 3-point line and in the paint. Park outscored Apple Valley 54-30 in the second half to earn a dominating 92-61 win to advance to the semifinals.
"We know we have a strong offense with many players that can score," said senior Domenik Block. "We had to focus on defense and that's what we did tonight. It was great to see and hopefully it'll carry into Friday's game."
Gorres and Block have been leaders this season and that carried into Tuesday night as the two led Park in points. Gorres finished with 28 points, while Block ended up with 26 points. Jeremiah Smith had a strong night with 11 points, while Jayden Lane and Milton Carnes also finished with nine and eight points respectively.
Even though the season's not over for Park, this will be the final basketball game at home for the senior class. Since Eastview won on Tuesday night, the Wolfpack will travel over to the Apple Valley area for a chance to play at Farmington High School in the finals.
This is exactly how the senior class wanted to end their time at Park High School. They left a Wolfpack-filled gym with smiles and laughter as the fans enjoyed every second of Tuesday night's game.
Along with that, Gorres was able to end his career with a standing ovation from the Wolfpack crowd. With a couple minutes left in the game, Weah subbed Gorres out of the game and the Park fans all got on their feet to show the love and support he's felt for his four years in a Wolfpack jersey.
"This is a great way to finish out our careers at Park High School with a big win like this," Gorres said. "We're not finished though and we're ready to take on Eastview later this week."
Weah said these Park players have had this game circled on their calendars from the beginning of the season. They wanted to match up with Eastview in sections and they want to defeat them. Eastview has had Park's number after eliminating them from the section tournament over the last two years.
Eastview is the No. 1 seed in the tournament and has been averaging about 92 points a game this season. Weah said he'll need to see the same kind of defense from Tuesday night into Friday night if Park wants to win.
"I know our team can shoot the ball and we have plenty of players that can create offense," Weah said. "We need to focus on defense and stopping this Eastview team from finding open shots. It'll be a good game on Friday night."
The semifinals game between Eastview and Park will take place on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. at Eastview High School in Apple Valley. The winner will advance to the finals on Thursday, March 14 at 7 p.m. at Farmington High School. The winner on Friday night will play either the No. 2 seed Burnsville or the No. 3 seed Eagan in the finals.
"We're excited for Friday and we're confident about what we can do as a team," Block said. "Now, we just need to show it on Friday night."
St. Paul Washington Tech 91, New Life Academy 84
It was a close game between No. 11 seed New Life Academy and No. 14 seed St. Paul Washington Tech, but the Eagles fell 91-84 on Tuesday night to end their basketball season.
The points were spread out amongst five players as Michael Reader led the team with 13 points. Caleb Wall and Cooper St. Cyr each finished with 11 points, while Konner Ware and Colin Quirk ended the night with 10 and nine points respectively.
The Eagles will graduate seniors Quirk and Wall, but will be bringing back a strong junior class to compete next season.
Those juniors include players like Reader, Ware and Cyr as well as a freshman in Kollin Kaemingk.
St. Agnes 75, Math & Science Academy 25
The Math & Science Academy boys basketball season comes to an end this year after a 75-25 loss on Tuesday night against St. Agnes.
The Dragons will be graduating three seniors including Ahmad Elhassan, Francis Bisbal and Manzi Kadoma.
The team will have plenty of senior leadership next season as juniors Lance Pye, Kaden Demer, Charlie Eng and Jagar Hansen will be looked to for leadership on and off the court next season.