MOORHEAD -- Panic is one emotion the Staples-Motley Cardinals boys' basketball team does not display.
In the Section 8AA boys' basketball semifinals Thursday the Cardinals trailed Bagley at halftime, after three quarters and with less than four minutes left.
The confidence the Cardinals gained from that come-from-behind win appeared to aid them in Friday's section championship game against the Crookston Pirates. S-M fell behind early before storming to a 56-45 win at Concordia College.
S-M got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 10-1. But the Cardinals regained their composure. Bolstered by smothering defense, rebound position and an explosive offense S-M erupted for 17 unanswered points in the second quarter on its way to its 20th straight win.
S-M seized a 30-17 halftime edge and the Pirates could get no closer than the final score in the second half.
"We were not playing that bad at the beginning," said the Cardinals' Dustin Hjelmeland, who had game highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds. "They made a lot of tough shots. If they make those all game long then we get beat.
"I looked up at the scoreboard and I didn't know it was 10-1. It didn't feel like it. We've been down before. We were down (Thursday) night. I think we were confident that we would find a way to pull it out. Maybe that helped us. We didn't panic. You've just got to chip away."
Hjelmeland and teammate Shannon Webster helped the Cardinals chip away in the second quarter. Both scored seven points in the period, during which S-M outscored the Pirates 21-3.
"I told the kids that we played a darn good first half," S-M coach Lynn Peterson said. "Even when we were down 10-1 we were playing tough defense. They hit some tough shots.
"If anything when they were on their 10-1 jaunt I thought maybe we shot the ball too quick. We didn't give ourselves a chance to work ourselves into the game.
"It's hard to say you feel good when you're down 10-1 but I felt better being down 10-1 than I did being down three or four points (Thursday) night. I felt the tempo and the way we were playing was there."
The Cardinals wound up shooting 47 percent (18 of 38) and outrebounded Crookston 33-23.
Webster backed Hjelmeland with 13 points and Jeff Brever and Wade Christensen each had 10. Brever had his usual splendid floor game, collecting eight assists and five steals.
Meanwhile, S-M's defense forced the Pirates to shoot just 36 percent (16 of 44). Crookston outscored S-M 28-26 in the second half but 21 of those points were in the fourth quarter when the contest was all but over.
Crookston coach Greg Garmen said the Pirates had played against a similar defense when it faced Win-E-Mac, whom the Pirates beat Feb. 4. But Garmen said no opponent had played man-to-man as tenaciously as S-M.
"You get frustrated," Garmen said. "We were not putting the ball in the hole. Nothing seemed to be going our way. Against the defense they play you have a tough time getting open looks.
"Our man-to-man offense was our best all year. But it didn't look like we had run it all."
Crookston 14 3 7 21 --45
Staples-Motley 9 21 8 18 --56
Elliott Erdmann 15, Kyle Buchmeier 4, Carl Hunt 7, Tim Lindgren 5, Nick Pankow 5, Travis Sanderson 2, Brian Axness 4, Justin Reitmeier 1, Matt Parnow 2. Team totals: FG 16-44 (36 percent), FT 11-18 (61 percent). Overall -- Finish 23-3.
Jeff Brever 10, Shannon Webster 13, Tim Rutten 2, Wade Christensen 10, Dustin Hjelmeland 19, Dan Lund 2. Team totals: FG 18-38 (47 percent), FT 19-30 (63 percent). Overall -- 25-1. Next game: vs. International Falls 8 p.m. Tuesday at Concordia in Class AA state quarterfinals
3-point baskets -- C 2-14 (Hunt, Erdmann), SM 1-3 (Webster). Rebounds -- C 23 (Lindgren 6), SM 33 (Hjelmeland 10, Brever 9). Turnovers -- C 14, SM 17. Total fouls -- C 23, SM 19. Fouled out -- Erdmann. Assists -- C 4, SM 11 (Brever 8). Steals -- C 13, SM 8 (Brever 5). Blocks -- C 5, SM 3 (Hjelmeland 2).
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