ST. PAUL-As Lake City head coach Greg Berge left the locker room, he was greeted by his family. His father and his sister immediately congratulated Berge on his team's 51-47 win over Perham at Concordia-St. Paul Saturday afternoon.
"My parents flew up from Florida, my sister from Denver," Berge said. "This is a family thing. It's a huge commitment to be a coach. It's great to have them here to (show their) support."
The Tigers, with the win, took third place in Class AA. It certainly was a challenge against a Perham team that fell the previous night 62-46 to Minneapolis North.
"I told the guys this game is about your head and your heart," Berge said. "You have to be mentally tough in your head today because you're going to get tired and you have to overcome that mentally. You have to have heart. It's the last game of the your season. I thought they did it."
The Tigers, led by Reid Gastner, got the scoring started. Gastner supplied the first five points, then later a steal and layup by Nathan Heise gave the Tigers a 16-9 lead. The Yellowjackets went on a 5-0 to cut into the deficit.
The two teams exchanged points until the intermission. The Tigers led 24-22. Gastner had 12 points.
In the second half, Heise stepped up. He scored 15 of 23 points in the second half. It was a half that had neither team pulling away, neither team going on a run and six lead changes.
The Tigers and Yellowjackets were tied 24-24 with 15 minutes, 24 seconds to go in the game and tied again 6 minutes later, 29-29.
Perham did grab a 3-point lead, its largest of the game. In the final 6:00, Justin Wohlers hit a 3-pointer and the Tiger defense held the Yellowjackets to six points to take back the lead for good.
"That's freshman who hit a 22-footer with ice in his veins in a huge game," Berge said. "That says a lot about him and his character."
Heise hit free throws to ice the game for the Tigers in the final minute of play.
Berge said after having allowed 82 points the previous night to Minnehaha Academy, this game was more indicative of the defense the Tigers have. All tournament, Heise and others stood in front of the media and gave just as much credit to the defense as they did the offense.
One thing the Tigers didn't do, however, was let Perham get easy shots from behind the arc. The Yellowjackets went 0-for-8 in the first half and 3-for-9 in the second half.
"We have good length and we switched all screens, so (Perham) didn't have a lot of open looks from 3," Berge said. "They like to get there 3s of drive and kick. We really took away a lot of those."
Berge said the Yellowjackets matched up well because of their similar style of play, which made for a tight contest.
"It was heavyweight battle. Back-and-forth, they took the lead, we took the lead," Berge said. "We just happened to have it at the end. I'm very proud of the kids for tightening up on defense."
Heise finished with a game-high 23 points. Gastner, who played all-around good game, had 17 points, a team-high seven rebounds and four assists. Wohlers added eight points, including two 3-pointers.
Gaster and Heise were named to the Class AA All-Tournament team.
Season in perspective
Berge said the Tigers have a lot to be proud of. The team finished with an overall record of 28-3. The only three losses came against teams with a top player in the state (Breck, Rochester John Marshall, Minnehaha Academy).
"That's a phenomenal season," Berge said of the wins and losses. "I think we've won more games than any team in the history of Lake City basketball. I told the guys how special this season was. We're fortunate, we have four starters coming back."
The Tigers also went 16-0 in the Hiawatha Valley League, becoming the second team in conference history to go undefeated in HVL action.
"It's so hard to get to the state tournament," Berge said. "I don't care how good you are, the road is really hard. Our guys know that and they took full advantage of that."