March has warmed the air and the Little Falls Flyers boys' basketball team.
The fourth-seeded Flyers (13-14) have won all five of its March basketball games and hope to make it six when they battle St. Cloud Apollo 6 p.m. Wednesday at St. Cloud State University.
Little Falls opened the month with a 22-point victory over Annandale, then nipped Central Lakes Conference opponents Brainerd and Alexandria to end the regular season.
In the playoffs they topped Detroit Lakes by 14 and upset top-seeded Thief River Falls by nine Saturday.
"That Brainerd game was one of our better games of the season up to that point," said Flyers head coach Kevin Jordan. "We've won five in a row and that was the second game of the stretch and it really gave the kids confidence because Brainerd is one of the top five teams in the CLC. That's the first time this season we've beaten one of the upper-echelon teams in the conference."
Section 8-3A final
Who: Little Falls (13-14) vs. St. Cloud Apollo (19-9)
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: St. Cloud State University
For: A trip to the Class 3A state boys' basketball tournament
Little Falls' streak followed a six-game losing streak and a 1-6 February. One of those six losses was to the Apollo Eagles (19-9), who are also playing their best basketball of the season.
Apollo defeated the Flyers during both regular season matchups 82-70 (Dec. 18) and 70-45 (Feb. 7). The Eagles won a five-game winning streak against its conference rival.
On Jan. 18 Apollo owned a 6-7 record. It then rattled off a nine-game winning streak and currently has won four straight. Its only losses since Jan. 19 have been to St. Cloud Tech, which is playing in the Section 8-4A final, and Willmar, which is playing in the Section 2-3A final.
"Everyone wants to be playing their best basketball," said Apollo head coach Dean Kesler. "Both teams are doing that right now. We've won 13-of-15 games. We know it's going to be a challenge. Just because we've beaten them twice doesn't matter. Anything can happen now and it's who produces (Wednesday)."
Apollo's strength is rebounding. It has outrebounded opponents 1,004 to 708 or a difference of 296. It has 411 offensive rebounds.
Ahmed Farah leads Apollo with 15.0 points per game and 6.5 rebounds. Andre Garth is averaging 14.8 points and 5.7 boards. Kendall Smith adds 10.5 points and 8.2 rebounds and Greg Wimberly averages 10.7 rebounds a game.
"We have to rebound," said Jordan. "The last time we played Apollo we got outrebounded 52-28 and they only made probably three of their initial shots. The rest of their points came off of offensive rebounds. They made a lot of second- and third-chance points. We need to keep them off the boards and take care of the ball on offense."
Nick Erdrich, who dropped 33 points on Thief River, leads the Flyers with 16.7 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. Ronnie Kornbaum averages 13.7 and 7.5. Alex Scott averages 13.4 and 2.2 and Dan Kornbaum contributes 12.1 and 6.3 per game.
The Flyers strength is shooting. They shot 54 percent against Thief River and are shooting 45.4 percent on the season. They also shoot free throws well at 69.4 percent.
"We have to continue to change our defenses and stay home on their shooters," said Kesler. "We have to rely on a little bit more of our man-to-man and watch their dribble drive and kick outs to those 3-point shooters. Offensively, they do a lot of things well. They move really well in their motion offense and they're playing well. I consider Kevin to be one of the best coaches in the CLC."
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