The Pequot Lakes Patriots boys' basketball team will play a familiar role in unfamiliar territory Wednesday.
With its 58-54 upset of top-seeded Crosby-Ironton in the Section 7, Class 2A championship game, Pequot advances to its first state tournament.
Pequot will continue to play the role of underdog, however, when it tips off with the Martin County West Mavericks 6 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Ranked No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll, the 27-1 Mavericks are riding a 25-game win streak, including a 74-44 drubbing of Hayfield in the Section 2 final.
The unranked Patriots (15-12) aren't phased by their dominant opponent.
"Look at the University of Alabama-Birmingham beating Kentucky," said Patriots head coach Garry Grewe. "We have nothing to lose. While we're very happy to be at the tournament, we want to make a good showing and hopefully play two more games after Wednesday."
Since a 62-56 regular-season final victory over Staples-Motley, the Patriots have perfected the Cinderella role. Seeded third in its subsection, Pequot knocked off second-seeded Deer River, the East's top-seeded Duluth Marshall and the West's top-seeded C-I to advance to state.
The Mavericks will pose the biggest competition yet for Pequot. Led by 6-foot-6, 245-pound senior Stuart Fuller, MCW runs a deliberate offense coupled with an imposing man-to-man defense that held opponents to 40 points a game.
"Our defensive pressure is pretty good," said Mavericks coach Cliff Anderson. "We start four seniors, with a front line of 6-6, 6-5, 6-3 and 6-1. We're the opposite of Pequot in that we want a slow, controlled tempo."
Because of its height advantage, MCW wants to exploit the shorter Patriots. Anderson said if his team can run its offense it will be able to combat Pequot's speed. But Pequot's speed is its key.
Class 2A state quarterfinal
Pequot Lakes vs. Martin County West, 6 p.m. Wednesday at Target Center in Minneapolis
"You want to control the tempo offensively but you don't want to take quick shots," said Grewe. "You still need to be able to score. Defensively, we'll run a full-court press and mix that up with half-court pressure. We want to force them into quicker shots.
"Whatever happens, it will be fun."
This is MCW's first state appearance since a loss to DeLaSalle in the 1998 quarterfinals. In 1970, Sherburn, one of three schools combined to form MCW, won the state title in the one-class tournament.
Despite being its first state appearance, Pequot is confident in its upset ability. The Patriots are riding a nine-game win streak.
"If you don't think you can beat them then you can't," said Grewe. "Our players are going into the game thinking they can get the job done. Someone on this team is going to get the job done.
"They're big and they have an excellent post player in Fuller. They're 27-1 so they have to be doing something right."
MCW last lost Dec. 18 to St. James. Since then they rattled off 25 straight wins, including a 59-55 elimination of third-ranked St. James in the West Subsection final.
"If our guards can handle their pressure we'll be fine," said Anderson. "If they can't then we'll struggle."
Led by seniors James Baumann Tim Koch and Jesse Nelson, Pequot's backcourt will pressure the Mavericks' guards the length of the court.
"We need to mix up our defenses so they can't get consistent with their scoring," said Grewe. "They want to get the ball inside to Fuller. We have to give them different looks and pressure the heck out of their perimeter."
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