It's a role reversal.
Last year it was the Crosby-Ironton Rangers who came into the Section 8-2A championship game at Bemidji State ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and unbeaten.
The Pelican Rapids Vikings were the young up-starts hoping to pull off the impossible.
This year, Pelican Rapids (29-0) is No. 1 in Class 2A and heavily favored to show the entire state the ranking is valid.
C-I wasn't supposed to be here. It wasn't supposed to be 26-3. The Rangers weren't supposed to get the top seed in the East Subsection, let alone win it.
Crosby-Ironton Rangers basketball coach Dave Galovich will once again lead his team against Pelican Rapids in the Section 8-2A championship game. Tip-off is Friday night in Moorhead. After defeating Pelican Rapids a year ago, Galovich hugged his assistant coach, Neil Tesdahl. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
But they're still playing and now they'll take a crack at mission impossible 7 p.m. Friday at Concordia College.
"I told the team we're one step away from everyone's dream of going to a state tournament," said Ranger head coach Dave Galovich. "There are no guarantees that we'll get back to this point next year. We're not looking at it as we're great underdogs, but as an opportunity to advance to the place everyone wants to be next week."
Pelican Rapids vs. Crosby-Ironton
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Concordia College, Moorhead
What: Section 8-2A final
At stake: A trip to the Class 2A state tournament
Rangers keys: We really have to take care of the ball offensively. Watching their team play, the area they've improved the most from last year is defensively. They put a lot of pressure on teams and do a good job of forcing turnovers which leads to transition baskets. - Ranger head coach Dave Galovich.
Vikings keys: If we don't turn the ball over we'll be good. It seems like they're turning people over all the time. When they do that they get easy baskets. We also need a good field goal percentage and keep them from getting good looks. - Vikings head coach Brad Strand
Of the five Pelican players who scored 62 points against C-I last year, four are back, including Tydan Storrusten. The senior point guard posted 29 points on the Rangers.
"He can flat-out score the ball," said Pelican Rapids head coach Brad Strand.
"He's scored 2,000 points in his career and has close to 700 assists. He's Mr. Everything for us. He's a 3-year starter and played major minutes as a freshman. He's a winner and he competes."
This year he's averaging 26.2 points, 7.5 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 3.1 steals. He's shooting 53.8 percent from the field, 40.6 percent from 3-point.
"We haven't seen anyone probably as good as he is with his size and strength," said Galovich. "He's 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds and sees the floor very well and goes to the basket hard. He's a complete player. That's why he's being recruited by a lot of Division II schools."
Senior guards Jan-Erik Lindberg and Matt Haugen combined to score 19 points in last year' section final. Lindberg is averaging 9.7 points, while shooting 42.0 percent from the field and 35.4 (52-of-147) from 3-point. Haugen is adding 5.4 points.
Senior forward Eric Shulstad scored 10 on C-I and this year he's posting 18.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.2 steals a game. Matt Skow-Anderson is the fifth starter and he's throwing in 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds a game.
"This is going to be a great game if you're a fan," said Strand. "Coach Galovich has his kids playing hard and they run the floor well and they can all score. We don't like to slow down either."
Of the 74 points the Rangers tagged on the Vikings only Mark Hoge's five returns. He is the only current Ranger who saw time in that game.
"We need production from all five of the players on the floor," said Galovich. "We can't rely on one or two or three guys. When we're playing very well we have all five guys in double figures. We've done that a number of times this year. Friday night is one game that we need that production to be successful."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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