The Rosemount Irish boys' basketball team lost to Burnsville Tuesday night in a nail-biter 65-63 in the first round of the Section 3AAAA playoffs. The Irish had a shot to tie the game or win it and the very end but were just not able to convert. The loss ends the season for Rosemount as they finish with a 4-23 overall record, two more wins than they had last season.
"We talked a lot about finishing the right way, our strides this year were way more about competitiveness and being involved in games that were close down the stretch and learning from those situations," said head coach Lance Walsten. " We won more games this year than we won last year, not as many as we would have liked, but we were involved, the games were much more competitive for us throughout and that was important for us. We knew going into the playoff game, two-seven matchup, that's a tough situation but we felt like with the section it was a good opportunity for us to compete."
Next season also looks even brighter as the Irish return many of this season's players.
"We ended the game last night with three sophomores on the floor playing significant minutes and a couple of juniors, so our final minutes of the game were five guys who are going to be back for next year and that experience of what it's like in a playoff game was huge for us," Walsten said.
Rosemount headed into sections the No. 7 seed in Section 3AAAA and Burnsville was No. 2. During the regular season, the Blaze beat the Irish twice, though Rosemount took heart from their first meeting which was decided by just seven points.
"It was kind of one of those things where the game was really played the way that we wanted it to go," Walsten said the day after the sections loss. "We felt like we played them well earlier in the year, struggled the second time against them and we just really wanted to go out there and see what would happen. The guys played hard and we really just executed our game plan really well against them."
Overall, Walsten said that the Irish executed their game plan well, which was focused on slowing the game down.
"First thing is that they're very good in transition, so we really wanted to slow the pace of the game down and knew we needed to keep it around 60 points so we were able to do that. We really wanted to keep them out of the paint as much as possible and really make them work on the defensive end," he said. "We knew that they were gonna pressure us hard and when they did we needed to be able to get some back-door cuts and some opportunities at the basket and we really executed that pretty well against them. We really wanted to make them defend us on the perimeter as much as possible and work the ball around, so we were able to really just break them down over time and keep the game at that pace that we wanted them to be at."
Neither team got out to much of a lead during the game as it was tightly contested throughout. Walsten said they got out to an early four-to-six-point lead which was their biggest lead of the game. Burnsville led by seven late in the game but Rosemount was able to come back from that deficit as well.
"Their (Burnsville's) biggest lead came late in the game, I think they got up seven and then we were able to get it back down again and then we end up having the last shot of the game to tie it up, we got a really good look and got another opportunity and neither of them went in," Walsten said. "So that was disappointing at the end, but we executed again very well and got ourselves a great shot, it just didn't go in for us."
He also said that offensive rebounds played an important role as the Blaze collected 18 of them, with the resulting second-chance opportunities really making a difference in the result. Injuries also played a role as the Irish lost two important pieces during the game.
"Jacob (Siwek) played really well, he had 25 points, unfortunately he didn't play the last five minutes of the game because he twisted his ankle, so that was a killer for us because he had played well up until that point," Walsten said. "Some 3-point shooting, some mid-range jump shots and also some back-door cuts getting to the basket, I think he had three or four layups that way. And then our backup shooting guard broke his thumb in the game as well so we were down to our third-string shooting guard, so that was tough at the end of the game."
Senior Jacob Siwek scored 25 points for Rosemount in his basketball game for the Irish. Sophomore Sean Sullivan followed with 15 points, fellow sophomore Noah Loehr added seven and senior Ben McMenomy had six.
Burnsville will host No. 3 Eagan on Friday. On the top half of the bracket, No. 1 Eastview beat No. 8 Henry Sibley by over 40 points and will face No. 4 Park who beat No. 5 Apple Valley by 29. Those games will be played on Friday, March 8, with the section championship game on March 14 at Farmington.