Last-second heroics mark Section 7A playoffs
March 17, 2023
All four local Section 7A boys basketball teams have been eliminated from the playoffs after play last week, but they kept fans on the edge of their seats to the end.
Fond du Lac hung in there the longest before falling 62-61 to Mountain Iron-Buhl Saturday in Hermantown.
It wasn't the only close playoff game for the Ogichidaa.
Carlton, ranked No. 12, gave No. 5 seed Fond du Lac a scare in a back-and-forth game March 9 that ended 76-74 in favor of Fond du Lac.
Leading FDL in scoring was Jordell Brown, who pumped in 25 points, while Luuke Korpela led Carlton with 28 points.
Joining in on the double-digit scoring barrage for the Ogichidaa were Dannin Savage with 17 points, Jordan Brown with 14 and Mukwa Bellengar, who had 12 points.
Carlton's Zandar Rubesh had 18 points and Sam Ojibway scored 15 points to also join Korpela in double-digit scoring.
"We doubled up on our win total from a year ago," said Carlton coach Shawn Filipiak. "The guys improved greatly over a year ago. Between summer workouts, putting in extra individual time and growing from a year ago, they really improved."
The season ended at 10-14 for the Bulldogs. They will pair with Wrenshall next season.
Fond du Lac gave MIB an equally hard time in the Section 7A quarterfinals at Duluth Denfeld Saturday. In the end, the No. 4 seeded Rangers prevailed 62-61 in a wild up-and-down affair over the Ogichidaa.
"You could not have drawn up a better game and atmosphere to be in," said FDL head coach Cameron Thompson. "We had the ball in our hands, down by one point with a chance to win at the end of the game to advance in the tournament. We got the look we wanted and it just didn't roll our way on Saturday, and we will live with that."
Jordell Brown led the Ogichidaa in scoring Saturday as they ended with a record of 13-9.
"Overall this season was a success," said Thompson. "I learned a lot from this group and I am excited for the younger guys coming up behind them."
Other 7A action
Second round play opened with No. 4 seed Mountain Iron-Buhl downing No. 13 Wrenshall, 104-44, on Thursday, March 9. Nik Jesch led the Rangers with 28 points, and two other players - Asher Zubich and Josh Holmes - both had 20 points. The Rangers scored 68 points in the first half alone.
Topping the Wrens in scoring was Peyton Johnson, who finished with 14 points. It was the last game for the Wrens, who will be in a cooperative program with Carlton starting next season. Wrenshall finished the season at 8-18.
"We started very slow this season and this group had a large number of students that had never played before," said Wrens head coach Jon Bartczak. "There wasn't much time prior to the season to prepare them, but once we got more time to work on things with them it started clicking and we looked a lot better."
In the next game involving local teams. No. 8 Chisholm defeated No. 9 seeded South Ridge, 55-54, as the Panthers bowed out of the playoffs with a 15-12 record. July Abernathy scored his 1,000th career point in the win over South Ridge for the Bluestreaks.
Perhaps no local small-town team loses more seniors than the Panthers, who will graduate nine players from this year's squad. One of the area's most dominant big men, 6-foot-9 Austin Josephson, will be a key loss, as will the rest of the South Ridge senior class.