ROCHESTER-After inclimate weather postponed Lake City and La Crescent-Hokah, the Tigers didn't show any rustiness at the Mayo Civic Center Wednesday night.
The Lancers, down by 14 points, were forced to send the Tigers to the line in the final 4 minutes of the game. The Tigers led having already gone to the free-throw line several times in the previous 6 minutes. Apart from few field goals from Reid Gastner and Nathan Heise, the Tigers were putting the Lancers away at the line.
"We tend to protect the ball," said Lake City head coach Greg Berge. "We're a good free-throw shooting team, we're a good shooting team and we hang out hat on (defense). That's been our formula for decades with Lake City basketball."
Hitting their free throws to close out the game, the Tigers downed the Lancers 61-43 in a Section 1AA semifinal on Wednesday.
Gastner and Heise combined for three 3-pointers to start the game for the Tigers, quickly giving them a 9-0 lead. Ten minutes into the first half, the Tigers held a commanding 20-4 lead following a 3-pointer from Gastner.
Luke Schwartzhoff helped get the Lancers back into the game, leading his team during a 12-0 run.
The Tiger offense went ice cold. After Gastner's 3-pointer, Lake City missed its next seven shots and went 0-for-4 from behind the arc. The Tigers broke the scoring drought on a free throw from Josh Matanich with 2:25 remaining in the first.
The Lancers never led or tied the game, but it was concerning for Berge given the hot start to the game. Berge said the team needed to recognize the flow of the game.
"That was probably the most disappointing part for us of the game is just building a 16-point lead (and letting La Crescent come back)," Berge said. "We're a really good 3-point shooting team, but we had too many possessions where we got quick looks that weren't good looks. We needed to get a longer possession and get the ball inside."
In the second half, Heise and Gastner continued to carry the Tigers offensively. With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Heise and Gastner accounted for 36 of the Tigers' 43 points. Heise finished the game with 23 points, while Gastner ended the night with 22.
"Some of the other guys that typically score a lot just didn't get a lot of looks," Berge said. "That had a little to do with what La Crescent was doing defensively. ... (Gastner and Heise) are very good and they're going to take what the defense gives you. If you take them away we have guys that can shoot and hits shots. Jake Wohlers didn't score many points tonight. He's a phenomenal shooter, he just didn't have the looks because they really tried to take him away and that freed up (Gastner and Heise)."
Lake City (25-2) advanced to the Section 1AA championship. The Tigers face sixth-seeded St. Charles (19-7) at the Mayo Civic Center with game time set for 8 p.m. Friday.
The Tigers, with the win, extended its win streak to 17 games. The Saints have beaten the three seed Stewartville 76-72 and second seed Caledonia 65-63 to get to the championship.
Randolph 70, Rushford-Peterson 53
Rushford-Peterson came in with one goal defensively; shut down Randolph's Carsyn Gunderson. The Trojans kept Gunderson mostly in check but couldn't prevent his teammates from having big games.
"We know at this point people are going to key in on Carsyn," said Randolph head coach Kent Otte. "You read the paper and he's the leading scorer and a great shooter. They weren't going to let him get open looks, but we've got more than (Gunderson) that can shoot the ball."
Nick Drinken had the Rockets off and running with three 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the game. Gunderson recorded his first points with a 3-pointer nearly 10 minutes into the game. It was an important shot for the Rockets as the Trojans were sticking with them offensively.
Midway through the first half, the two teams were tied 15-15 and tied again at 19 apiece. The Rockets forged ahead by four points and held the Trojans to a single point in the final 3:49 of the half, taking a 27-20 lead into the intermission.
Drinken, Gunderson and Joey Erickson each knocked down a 3-pointer for the Rockets to start the second half. Feeling some urgency to get back in the game and stop the 3-point shot, the Trojans deployed a 1-3-1 half court defense. The move by the Trojans kept the 3-pointers to a minimum, but left Rocket Isaac Stoesz with more room to work underneath the basket. Stoesz, kept quiet in the first half, scored nearly all 10 of points in the second half.
"(Stoesz) had his best game of the season offensively," Otte said. "He hit one or two and the confidence was there."
The Rockets did manage to get off a contested 3-pointer, but it rimmed out. As two Trojans waited for the rebound, Andrew Wenstrom lept above both defenders for the put back. His attempt, while extremely athletic, failed to go in, but Stoesz got the second put back attempt to go. It was the kind of play Otte said showed off the athleticism the Rockets have.
"Those are two very athletically gifted guys that went up for that board," Otte said. "Andrew and what he tried to do, not everyone can do that. For Isaac to clean it up on the other side of the rim, I thought that characterized how we played all night. Those are the kinds of plays we have the capability of making."
With Stoesz leading the charge offensively, the Rockets man-to-man defense held the Trojans at bay. In the first nine minutes of the of the second half, the Rockets outscored the Trojans 26-14. Otte said the team as a whole did a good job sustaining the energy necessary to play man defense.
"(Rushford-Peterson) wasn't getting open 3-pointers," Otte said. "That's our main goal is to keep them from getting open threes. Our guys like to play man, we can do other stuff, but they would prefer man."
Drinken finished with a team-high 18 points for the Rockets, all coming on 3-pointers. Gunderson had 17 points and four 3-pointers. Erickson and Alex Willie each scored nine points, while Wenstrom added seven points.
Randolph (26-2) next faces Spring Grove (22-4) in the Section 1A championship 6 p.m. Friday at the Mayo Civic Center. The Rockets previously faced the first-seeded Lions once this season and lost 66-45 on Dec. 27.