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SECTION 8-3A SEMIFINALS: Big 2nd half propels Lakers into finals

The Detroit Lakes boys' basketball team is back to where they finished their season last year -- the Section 8-3A championship game.

The second consecutive trip back to the title game was thanks in due to a 39-point second half, which enabled the North top-seeded Lakers (21-7) to snap a 25-25 halftime tie against the South's No. 2 seeded Alexandria (10-16) for a 64-52 win at St. Cloud State University Saturday.

"We came out in the second half with more of an intense defense and aggression," said DL senior guard Joe Mollberg, who led all scorers with 24 points.

That defensive pressure held Alexandria's 6-foot-7 junior center Logan Doyle in check for 16 points and eight rebounds.

The pressure also forced forward AJ Anderson to the bench early in the second half with four fouls.

"I think we frustrated them a bit with our defense," Mollberg added. "It all starts with Brian (Labat), who stuck with Doyle all game."

The late surge was keyed by both Mollberg, who had five three pointers in the contest, and senior backcourt mate Rick Hutchinson, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half.

"We knew they were good ball defenders, so I just tried to get into the lane and find the open guys," said Hutchinson, who had two of DL's eight three's. "We didn't get into any foul trouble in the first half, either, so we came out aggressive in the second half."

Senior guard Derek Long's lone trey of the game came at an opportune time, as well, after sinking it early in the second half to put DL up 28-27, a lead they would not lose the rest of the game.

But the Cardinals kept it within striking distance up to the 4:12 mark, when Mollberg hit the final of his five three's to put DL up 56-49.

A goaltending call on Alexandria on DL's next possession led to a barrage of Laker free throws to seal the game.

DL went a combined 7-9 from the charity stripe in the final 2:35 to keep any Cardinal rally at bay.

DL shot 52.4 percent from the floor, while Alexandria shot 41.7. The Lakers were accurate from beyond the three-point arc by going 8-16, while the Cardinals were a dismal 4-22.

"The big key in the first half was that we were not containing their penetration well, but the guys did a better job of that in the second half," said DL head coach Robb Flint. "Our defense had active hands and Brian Labat did an outstanding job on Doyle.

"Our plan was for Brian to not leave Doyle the entire game and he kept him off the boards."

Flint also credited Hutchinson for finding his shot in the second half, when the Cardinals were keying on Mollberg.

"That's why we call him 'Big Shot Rick,' because he comes up with the big shots," Flint included.

"They were keying on me a little more in the second half and Rick hit his shots," Mollberg added. "Brian (Labat) was also a beast down low (with 15 points)."

DL will be heading back to the Section 8-3A championship game, where they lost last year to St. Cloud Apollo.

The Lakers will await the winner of No. 2 Fergus Falls and No. 4 Sartell. The Section 8-3A championship game will be Thursday at Minnesota State University Moorhead, starting at 7 p.m.

Laker results

Section 8-3A semifinals at St. Cloud State University, Saturday, March 10: (2) Alexandria vs. (1) Detroit Lakes.

Cardinals 25 27 - 52

Lakers 25 39 - 64

Scoring (2-3-ftm-fta-pts) -DL: Joe Mollberg 2-5-5-8-24; Brian Labat 7-0-1-3-15; Derek Long 1-1-0-2-5; Kirk McLeod 1-0-0-0-2; Rick Hutchinson 3-2-6-8-18. TEAM: 16-8-12-21-64.

Alex: John Vogeler 3-0-0-0-6; Logan Doyle 5-0-6-7-16; AJ Anderson 2-0-0-0-4; Jordan Smith 2-1-1-2-8; Tanner Rice 1-2-0-0-8; Brandon Bistodeau 0-0-1-2-1; Austin Storm 3-1-0-0-9. TEAM: 16-4-8-12-52.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.