Raiders hold off top-seeded Titans for subsection title
No. 2-seeded Lake Park-Audubon held off a Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal final possession for a 52-50 victory in the Minnesota Section 6A North Subsection championship Tuesday night at the University of Minnesota-Morris.
The Raiders led 52-45 on a pair of Jesse Bergh free throws with one-minute, 23-seconds to play and would not score again in the game.
The top-seeded Titans got a bucket from Isaac Habedank and a three-pointer from Dawson Fox-Murray in the right corner with less than a minute to play to close to within a basket 52-50.
"My guys executed our defensive plan to perfection and we just have to do it one more time,” said LP-A head coach Kyle Haberman. “Right away the pressure was really getting to us, but you never know, they hit a three at the end and we lose. It’s just basketball. Offensively, we weren't very good.”
NCE/UH put LP-A’s Grant Pederson on the free throw line and Pederson missed the front end to give the Titans a shot with 20 seconds on the clock.
The Raiders pressured hard and forced the Titans’ senior guard Brett Braseth to drive the lane. Braseth’s floater bounced off the iron and landed in the hands of teammate Griffin Maesse. Maesse shot the ball while in the air grabbing the rebound but his floater was also no good sending the Raiders sprinting down the court in celebration.
“I’m proud of my guys; they fought to the very end,” said Titans’ head coach Brett Maass. “That’s how our team is. Good veteran leadership from a bunch of guys who really care. We didn’t get it done tonight and it hurts, but that doesn’t define our season.”
Bergh led all scorers with 25 points coming off a 50-point performance last weekend against Waubun. He also announced that he has committed to play basketball at Minnesota State University-Moorhead next season.
The Raider big man had to fight through triple teams and battled against the Titans down low all game.
“It’s just really hard; you’ve got to keep your feet planted and if they end up displacing you they get a foul called and I was hoping for that most of the time, mainly,” said Bergh.
LP-A did not relinquish the lead for the entirety of the second half and got a huge three from Tyler Bjerke to go up nine points 36-27, while the Titans held Bergh off the scoreboard for the opening four minutes of the second half.
“I love it, a freshman!” said Bergh. “It’s amazing to have younger guys, especially, come in and knock a three down with confidence. We would have lost by one if he didn’t make that.”
“Basketball is a funny game and it comes down to little things like that,” Haberman said.
The basket was the lone bucket for Bjerke in the game, but a big one that got Bergh jump started and he scored on the ensuing possession to give the Raiders a double-digit lead 38-27.
The Titans were cold coming out of halftime but gained momentum as time dwindled away. The Raiders started missing in crunch time but had built enough cushion to hold on.
NCE/UH came out the more controlled team to start the game while the Raiders went directly to Bergh until the jitters wore off.
The Titans led by as many as eight points early at 18-10 on back-to-back three-point baskets by Cody Peterick at the midway point of the half.
Both teams hit a sloppy stretch trading turnovers before Mike Vohnoutka hit the Raiders’ first three in five attempts to cut the lead to 18-15.
Bergh threw down his first of two dunks in the half to pull within one and blocked Toby Bjerklie on the other end. Carter Raaen gave the Raiders a 19-18 lead on a putback of a Mitch Hall miss.
Peterick scored again and was fouled. He missed the free throw and Hall drained a three on the other end to put LP-A up 22-20.
The Raiders got another bucket from Hall, Bergh’s second jam and he scored the final basket of the half to lead 28-25 at the break. Bjerklie had a shot at the halftime horn that failed.
NCE/UH ends the season with an overall mark of 24-4.
LP-A has won seven consecutive games to improve to 21-6 and will face Ortonville (22-5) in the Section 6A final for a trip to the state tournament. Ortonville defeated Parkers Prairie (21-8) 76-61.
LPA 28 24 — 52
NCE 25 25 — 50
LPA - Bergh 25, Hall 12, Pederson 5, Raaen 4, Bjerke 3, Vohnoutka 3.
NCE - Habedank 16, Peterick 15, Fox-Murray 12, Braseth 4, Bjerklie 2, Maesse 1.