MINNEAPOLIS - Anyone who thought the Crosby-Ironton Rangers weren't capable of beating an opponent that played an up-tempo style found out differently Wednesday.
The Rangers labored for much of the first half against the lightning-like pace set by the Rockford Rockets. But, in the last three minutes of the first half and the entire second half C-I demonstrated its composure and roared to a 73-59 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state boys' basketball tournament at Mariucci Arena.
C-I, ranked No. 1, didn't lead until Bryce Tesdahl's layup closed the first half 36-35 in favor of the Rangers. The unbeaten Rangers then led the entire second half on their way to their 31st victory.
Alisha Moritz screamed for her Rangers as they defeated Rockford 73-59 to advance in the boys state basketball tournament Wednesday at Mariucci Arena. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"We're a second-half team," Tesdahl said. "When we came into the locker room we were fortunate to be up by one but we felt good. We knew in the second half we had a great chance to win."
Tesdahl and center Derek Swanhorst, and others, gave C-I that chance. Tesdahl scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, finished with 14 assists, grabbed 13 rebounds and made 6 of 11 shots for the game.
"Sometimes I get in a flow when I come into halftime and I'm not playing well the first half," Tesdahl said. "I can sit down and say to myself, 'You've got a half left. It could be your last half.'
"That's really important to me. I didn't want to end my career tonight."
Neither did Swanhorst. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior was a brute in the paint, scoring 27 points on 12 of 14 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Rockford didn't start a player taller than 6-3.
Kody Bartels (40) moved the ball down the floor. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I kind of noticed it but they closed pretty well," Swanhorst said of his size advantage. "They just didn't have any height. They're more of a (guard-oriented) team."
The Rangers overcame any liabilities with 66 percent shooting (31 of 47). Trevor Dickie was 5-for-5 and finished with 12 points. Kody Bartels was 4 of 6 and contributed eight points. Mark Hoge made all three of his shots off the bench and added six points.
"They caused us some problems in the backcourt with their pressure," C-I coach Dave Galovich said. "They are quick, but we kept playing through some of the miscues. We kept our composure. I thought defensively we were pretty good the second half."
The Rangers shut down Rockford shooters in the second, allowing the Rockets to make only 9 of 30. Rockford shot just 36.4 percent (24 of 66) for the game.
C-I's size was another factor with the Rangers outrebounding Rockford 40-25.
Bryce Tesdahl (32) took the ball down the floor in Crosby-Ironton's opening-round state tournament game against Rockford. The Rangers won 73-59 in Class 2A. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
The victory put C-I into the state semifinals Friday night against fourth-ranked St. Bernard's, a 74-69 winner over LaCrescent.
"It's been my goal for a long time, probably since I've been playing basketball," Swanhorst said. "I always wanted to play at the Target Center in the state tournament."
Added Tesdahl, "We have two more games left. The last goal (a state championship) we've got to accomplish. It's been my goal for 18 years now. We've got to get it done."
For much of the first, the sixth-ranked Rockets' stretched the court and, despite their size, attacked the basket.
They frustrated C-I with their full-court pressure, quickness and depth. Rockford twice led by nine points and twice by eight before the Rangers stormed back.
C-I 73, Rockford 59
The key: The Rangers shot 66 percent from the field and outrebounded the Rockets 40-25.
Overall: C-I 31-0, Rockford finishes 28-3
Next: St. Bernard's vs. C-I at 6 p.m. Friday in 2A semifinals at Target Center, Minneapolis
"Our composure is probably what got us here and to this kind of record," Swanhorst said. "Every person on our team is mentally strong. We don't rush things. We don't have to rush anything. We know we will make a run. They were a good team and we knew they were going to make a run."
A nine-point run toward the end of the half enabled the Rangers to tie it 34-34. A Luke Mernin free throw gave Rockford a one-point edge before Tesdahl's layup with 6/10ths of a second left.
"I thought coming in at halftime up by one, not that we could rest, but I thought it was a decent position for us to be in because we didn't defend very well and we had our share of turnovers offensively," Galovich said.
Swanhorst's 13 points led C-I at the half. Luke Mernin had 13 to lead the Rockets at the intermission and he finished with a team high 20.
"They came out firing," Tesdahl said. "That's the quickest team I've ever played. We can't simulate that in practice. We don't have the personnel to do that."
Rockford 35 24 - 59
Crosby-Ironton 36 37 - 73
Rockford 35 24 - 59
Crosby-Ironton 36 37 - 73ROCKFORD
Nathan Maher 4, Lucas Mernin 20, Nick Haugen 15, Antone Nelson 6, Mike Mernin 10, Josh Brozek 2, Chris Luhmann 2. FG: 24-66 (36.4 percent). FT: 5-6. 3-point baskets: 6-27 (L. Mernin 3, Haugen, Nelson 2). Turnovers: 4. Rebounds: 25.
Trevor Dickie 12, Bryce Tesdahl 17, Kody Bartels 8, Derek Swanhorst 27, Joe McLaughlin 2, Mark Hoge 6, Peter Vukelich 1. FG: 31-47 (66 percent). FT: 10-20. 3-point baskets: Dickie. Turnovers: 13. Rebounds: 40 (Tesdahl 13).
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com and at 855-5861.
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