MINNEAPOLIS - The River was mightier than the Lake Friday in the semifinals of the Class 2A state boys' basketball tournament.
Pequot Lakes may have played their worst game in two years, but Maple River had a lot to do with that.
After upsetting Class 2A's three-time defending state champion Braham in Thursday's quarterfinals, Maple River maintained their composure and disposed of the Patriots 61-44.
Few will argue that Maple River's road to the final was one of the toughest in all four classes.
It started in the Section 2 tournament where they had to face the likes of Fairmont, Blue Earth Area and, in the final, Belle Plaine. All three of those teams had winning records. Then to knock off Braham, who hadn't lost to a 2A school in four years, and Pequot Lakes, who had lost just three games in two years, makes the Eagles climb to the championship game all the more impressive.
Jesse Fisher drove to the net for the Patriots Friday at the Class 2A state boys' basketball semifinals at Target Center in Minneapolis. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
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"It was kind of hard, but it also gave us momentum," said Eagles point guard Paul Larson about playing after the Braham game. "We knew that wasn't the win that we wanted. We wanted to get a string of wins and finish on a high note by winning a championship. We did pretty good tonight."
The Eagles weren't flashy. They didn't have one great player on the floor Friday, but a collection of players who all contributed. Eight players scored. Four players scored in double figures.
"All eight guys will have their nights," said Larson. "Nobody has to play any bigger than what they are. It's really nice to have that balance. Everyone has their role on this team."
The Eagles shot the ball well, connecting on 43 percent of their field goals. They outrebounded Pequot 46-39. One of the more rare occurrences was the fact that Maple River had more assists (13 to 10) and fewer turnovers (13 to 14) than Pequot.
On defense, the Eagles resembled static cling as they frustrated the Patriots.
Jesse Fisher was tagged with three first-half fouls and picked up his fourth early in the second half. That forced point guard Tucker Sheley to look for his shot more than usual. Sheley finished with 21 points, but had just one assist. He averages around five a game.
Williams Arena gets my
vote over Target Center
Yes, the Timberwolves play at the Target Center and it is bigger and newer, but I think Class 1A and 2A should play all their games at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
No. 1, it's owned by the tax payers of Minnesota.
No. 2, the Target Center is too big for the semifinal round of those two classes. While the Target Center was half packed, Williams would have been packed and loud.
No 3, there is just more history at Williams Arena.
No. 4, Pequot Lakes is 0-2 at Target Center and 1-1 at Williams.
No. 5, there is no reserved seating at Williams. The middle section of seats on both sides of the half court line at the Target Center were reserved for season ticket holders. That forced fans of both teams to have to split into two different sections on either side of the reserved seats. Not only was it a waste of space, but it looked ridiculous.
From my vantage point you had a swarm of red-and-blue clad fans on either side standing, cheering and clapping. In the middle there were about 100 people sitting, yawning and talking to their neighbors.
Williams Arena gets my vote.
JEREMY MILLSOP, sports writer, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.
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