Pequot Lakes vs. Crosby-Ironton has dominated the local basketball scene the past three seasons.
For good reason. During that span the two have combined for three section championships, three Mid-State Conference titles, a Class 2A state runner up and a Class 2A state third-place finish.
Combined the teams own 152 wins and 28 losses in those three seasons. Seven of those losses were to each other during match ups that filled the Pequot Lakes, Crosby-Ironton and Brainerd High School gymnasiums.
Friday night in Crosby should be no different when the Patriots (8-2 overall, 2-0 conf.) battle the Rangers (11-1, 3-1). From the start the B-squad game (6 p.m.) to the end of the varsity, voices will be lost, officials' optometrists will be questioned and someone will ask you if you will "be their girl."
For the causal basketball fan the actual action on the court is fun, too.
Pequot's two losses came against Little Falls, who returned all but one player from is Section 8-3A title run and Minneapolis North, a Class 4A school with a 7-4 record.
"One of their strengths is their balance and the other is depth," said Rangers head coach Dave Galovich. "(Michael) Ward is a scoring threat inside and they have a number of kids who can knock down perimeter shots. That makes them a very solid basketball team."
The surprise of the season continues to be the Rangers. After graduating all, but one player from last year's state runner-up team, C-I has continued to amass impressive wins. The Rangers lone loss came to Wadena-Deer Creek in Crosby. It's only the second loss suffered by C-I in the new Ranger Gym. The other - Pequot.
"I knew they would be a much better team than people thought they were going to be," said Pequot Lakes head coach Garry Grewe. "With that said, they are playing better than what I thought they would."
Pequot is outscoring teams 71.9 to 49.8. Their leading scorers are junior point guard Michael Goerges (16.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 26 assists), junior post Michael Ward (12.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 23 assists), sophomore guard Kurtis Moody (9.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 21 assists) and senior, guard Jonas Dale (10.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 22 assists).
Dale, however, is hurt and may not be ready by Friday. Look for juniors Adison Runberg, Cole Engen and Matthew Michaelson to play an increased role along with sophomore post Tomas Parker and senior guard Nic Johnsen.
"This team is starting to come together and work toward a common goal," said Grewe. "At the start of the season they checked their egos at the door. Some have had to sacrifice minute to make us a better team. That's given us more depth and that's been the key to our success.
"The big difference is we replaced our state team with sophomores. We actually covered two or three classes. C-I is replacing its state team with juniors and they're all juniors. From the physical and mental aspect we've grown a lot. Basically we're still younger than C-I is."
Barring an injury or a blowout, Johnsen and C-I's Mike Girtz could be the only seniors to see playing time.
The Rangers are also balanced, but are led by junior forward Mark Hoge (20.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 5.1 apg), who is the only player to see considerable action during C-I's state run last year. Juniors Brock Tesdahl (16.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Matthew Hudrlik (11.2 ppg, 2.1 spg), Tyler Dickie (6.7 ppg, 2.9 spg) and Sam Baker (13.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) make up the starting rotation.
"I really didn't think we would be 11-1," said Galovich. "I really have to hand it to our kids. They worked hard and what we lack in size they make up for it in effort and hustle. The biggest thing is they play very well together."
Don't expect too many surprises from either team. Each coaches keys to claiming this conference clash were winning the rebound battle and taking care of the ball. The Rangers would like to shoot a better percentage from the field, while the Patriots would like to dictate tempo
Regardless if any of that happens, both coaches appreciate the opportunity to play in front of a large, loud and passionate crowd.
"A good, loud regular season crowd is nothing but a plus," said Galovich. "Hopefully you can go a ways in March. When that happens the crowds are bigger. To play in front of crowds during the regular season like those in the playoffs is nothing but a plus. Friday night should be a good turnout as well."
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.
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