Buffalo Bison basketball has been riding high since winning the Class 4A state championship in 2007.
The Bison were stunned by Moorhead in the Section 8-4A semifinals last year. But, if Friday's 62-46 victory over the Brainerd Warriors is any sign, Buffalo might have the ability to give unbeaten and third-ranked St. Cloud Tech a run for this year's section title.
Buffalo has athleticism, experience, quickness, brawn and depth. After starting the season 2-4 the Bison have won 15 of 16.
Four Bison scored at least nine points. Aaron Duske, a 6-4 junior, scored 21 points. Brock Korbel, a 6-2 senior, added 13. Brooks Beilke, sixth man on the state title team, contributed 12. Erik Olson, a three-year starter at point guard, had numerous assists and nine points.
"They've really wanted to develop their own identity," Bison coach Nick Guida said. "They want to leave their own legacy at Buffalo High School. There's still some hangover from the state tournament season. People always bring it up. These guys want to be their own team. They want to set their marks at Buffalo High School.
"I'm awfully proud of this group and what they've done in coming together as a team."
The Bison shot a respectable 44.2 percent, scoring 28 points in the paint and six on putbacks.
"We didn't rebound real well again," Warriors coach Matt Urbanek said. "We gave up some offensive rebounds that hurt us. I would say we gave up eight to 10 points on putbacks. You put those eight to 10 points up on the board and it's a pretty close game down to the last minute."
Buffalo had bursts of seven and 10 points in the first half to build a 31-23 lead at the break.
The Warriors stayed in the game early in the second half behind a zone defense that congested the lane. In addition Brainerd frequently trapped the Bison player with the ball.
"Olson is a tough guard to match up with," Urbanek said. "He's very quick. Our game plan was to try and keep him out of the lane. Once he gets in the lane he's awfully tough to stop, and someone usually ends up with a pretty good shot when he gets in the lane. I wouldn't be surprised if he had 10 assists tonight."
With about 11 minutes left Brainerd was within 40-36. The Warriors were outscored 22-10 the rest of the game.
Buffalo's defense limited Brainerd to 40-percent shooting. The Warriors' leading scorers, Kyle Crocker (16.8 average) and Ben Gervais (12.8), combined for 10 points. Gervais scored all eight of his points in the first half, Crocker made his only basket in the second half.
"Both are fundamentally sound and smart basketball players," Guida said of Olson and Beilke. "They were guarding Crocker and Gervais. They've put a lot of time in. Erik has probably played about 110 varsity basketball games in his career."
While the Warriors struggled outside they flourished inside. Sam Feyder scored 13 points and Aaron Pavek came off the bench to add 12 as he made all six of his shots.
"They took away Kyle and Ben, and we need to go inside when that happens," Urbanek said. "Aaron and Sam came through. They attacked the basket, and did a good job.
"Our goal is to be a balanced team, have the inside and outside game working at the same time. Tonight, the inside game was going. Buffalo did a good job taking away the outside game."
Buffalo 31 31 - 62
Brainerd 23 23 - 46
Eric Olson 9, Brent Kettenacker 2, Brock Korbel 13, Brooks Beilke 10, Aaron Duske 21, Brady Matzke 2, Dan Ngandali 5. FG 23-52 (44.2 percent), FT 14-21. 3-point baskets: Korbel, Olson. Turnovers: 9.
Ben Gervais 8, Kyle Crocker 2, Thomas Fairbanks 6, Sam Feyder 13, Jon Wiese 5, Aaron Pavek 12. FG 19-48 (40 percent), FT 6-8. 3-point baskets: Gervais, Wiese. Turnovers: 17.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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