Concordia College in Moorhead has virtually been the home away from home for the Staples-Motley Cardinals boys' basketball team for two decades.
Since Lynn Peterson became S-M's head coach in 1979-80 the Cardinals have won nine section championships, all at Concordia. They also have played in a holiday tournament at Concordia many times in the Peterson era.
Peterson is hoping the Cardinals' familiarity with the Concordia Fieldhouse works to their advantage 8 p.m. Tuesday when S-M plays International Falls in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state tournament.
"Concordia has a great atmosphere," Peterson said. "It should be a good ballgame."
The Cardinals, ranked only behind Litchfield in Class AA, have won 20 straight games. They defeated Crookston 56-45 for the Section 8AA championship after laboring to defeat Bagley 60-55 in the section semifinals.
"I felt we played with much better defensive intensity Friday against Crookston than Thursday against Bagley," Peterson said.
"Keep in mind that anyone we run into now they have all been successful," Peterson added. "When everyone is successful things get tougher. Maybe it appears we're not playing as well as we're capable of playing. You have to remember to give our opponents credit on that too."
Dustin Hjelmeland, a 6-foot-5 senior, leads the Cardinals in scoring (16.4), rebounding (7.8) and blocked shots (31). He is followed by 6-6 Wade Christensen (11.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 22 blocks.) Point guard Jeff Brever averages 11.2 points and 5.2 assists and leads the team with 91 steals.
Rounding out the Cardinals' starting lineup are Shannon Webster (10.8 points) and Tim Rutten (8.2). Top reserves are Adam Barnett, Dan Lund and Curt Burrows.
International Falls, which defeated Pine River-Backus 44-28 for the Section 7AA title, is riding a 7-game win streak. The Broncos revolve around 6-3 junior Derek Dowty who is averaging 18.1 points.
The Broncos' other starters are 6-foot Eric Helleloid (6.0 points), 5-11 Luke Zika (6.3), 6-foot Geoff Dowty (11.8) and 6-5 Clay Nelson (8.4). First off the bench is 6-1 Brian Trask (3.7).
"They have a team where probably anybody is capable of hitting a 3-point shot," Peterson said. "The bottom line is all our kids need to play perimeter defense and play post defense."
Peterson said the Cardinals hope to contain Derek Dowty, who scored a game-high 16 points against PR-B.
"We have to be aware of everyone but Doughty is a key," Peterson said. "In the game against PR-B during pressure he became their point guard. If they need somebody to do some bail out stuff they use him. His court sense is very good. He sees the floor well. He's a great passer, and a great rebounder."
Peterson plans to have Christensen guard Derek Doughty.
"We need obviously to try and contain him with Wade," Peterson said. "If we have to help out he sees the floor so well. He makes passes to other people that not many kids that size can make. Everyone else is capable of scoring.
"As a team they look like they're 15-20 pounds heavier than us. They rely on a lot of physical play in the offensive end. They will let you have the perimeter pass but they make things tough from 15 feet in, then they rely on rebounding."
The winner plays Litchfield or St. Cloud Cathedral at 9 p.m. Friday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis in the state semifinals. A potential matchup between S-M and Litchfield might be the marquee game of any class at state.
"Class AA, I think, has the best mix of good-sized schools, that play good basketball, with a small-town following," Peterson said. "Everyone knows everyone and there are so many close-knit kind of communities."
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