Seventh-seeded CL-B forced 41 Mahnomen turnovers – 19 in the first half and 21 in the second half – but the Panthers’ inability to make easy shots proved their demise in an 81-69 loss against the second-seeded Indians.
“I don’t know exactly what we shot, but we picked a bad night to have our worst game offensively,” CL-B head coach Brian Michaelson said of his team’s poor night shooting the ball. “Missing free throws and those easy bunnies killed us.”
The Panthers (10-16) had their chances, too.
In the first half, Cass Lake shot out to an early 15-9. Damien Kingbird made some easy layups down low followed by seven straight points from Josh Laduke.
Constant ball pressure and an early full-court press helped the Panthers force the Indians to throw the ball away at inopportune times to build up that lead.
However, the Panthers weren’t able to make the most out of Mahnomen’s numerous gifts to them.
After CL-B took the 15-9 lead with 10:22 to go in the first half, Mahnomen took advantage of Cass Lake’s numerous missed shots.
It helped that the Indians had the 6-foot-3 Jacob Pavek down low, out-muscling the CL-B post players and denying them second-chance opportunities.
His rebounding, combined with the shooting of Jason Schoeborn, Dylan Reitan and Luke Warnsholz, helped fuel an 11-0 run over the next three minutes.
“Cass Lake did a really good job pressuring us on the ball and forcing those turnovers,” Mahnomen head coach John Clark said. “But we were able to dominate the boards and those turnovers didn’t hurt us as much as they could have.”
Pavek finished the game with an eye-popping 30 points and 26 rebounds; Mahnomen outrebounded the Panthers 61-39 in the game.
But those turnovers continued to keep Cass Lake-Bena in the game.
The Indians led 35-19 with 1:40 to go in the second half but the Panthers cut the game to single-digits with 9 points in less than 90 seconds – Laduke and Alvin Wind each hit 3s to cut it to 36-25 then Jordan Collins scored twice (a layup and a foul shot) on a pair of Mahnomen turnovers with less than 30 seconds to go.
Mahnomen led 36-28 at the break, but Cass Lake-Bena went on a little run to start the second half. Wind and Laduke both knocked down some 3s and the Panthers were able to find Kingbird inside enough to cut Mahnomen’s lead to 45-41 with 12:39 to play.
The Panthers were never able to get any closer, however. Mahnomen continued to find Pavek on the inside – he scored 17 points in the second half.
The Indians also made their free throws – something the Panthers couldn’t do.
Mahnomen shot 23-for-38 (61 percent) from the foul line while Cass Lake-Bena went just 9-for-21 (43 percent).
The Indians were working with a 12-point margin for most of the second half. The Panthers cut Mahnomen’s lead back to single digits numerous times with less than five minutes to play – thanks to some inopportune turnovers by the Indians – but couldn’t get closer than eight.
“We had our chances, but we just weren’t able to get it going on offense,” Michaelson said. “But we’re still pretty young. Our kids played a good game but I think they just weren’t as experienced playing in the playoffs.”
Laduke finished the game with a team-high 22 points, while Wind scored 17 points thanks to draining five 3-pointers. Kingbird added 14 and Collins 11.
In addition to Pavek’s 30, Schoenborn and Reitan added 18 each.
Mahnomen (19-4) will take on sixth-seeded Blackduck (16-10) at 1:45 p.m. Saturday in semifinal action at Ralph Englestad Arena in Thief River Falls.
Cass Lake-Bena (69) – Wind 6 0-0 17; Laduke 8 3-5 33; Collins 4 3-9 11; Headbird 1 1-3 3; D.Kingbird 6 2-4 14; M.Kingbird 1 0-0 2; Jones 0 0-0 0; Premo 0 0-0 0; Swanholm 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 9-21 69.
Mahnomen (81) Schoenborn 6 4-6 18; Guinn 0 0-0 0; Gieske 4 1-5 9; Pergl 0 1-2 1; Peitan 5 8-11 18; T.Pavek 0 0-2 0; Warnscholz 1 2-3 5; J.Pavek 12 6-8 30. Totals 28 23-38 81.
3-point goals – Cass Lake-Bena 8; Mahnomen 2.
Team Fouls – Cass Lake-Bena 24; Mahnomen 18.
Rebounds – Cass Lake-Bena 39, Mahnomen 61.
Turnovers – Cass Lake-Bena 26, Mahnomen 41.
Halftime Score – Mahnomen 36, Cass Lake-Bena 28.