Thunderbirds dethrone Raiders in 6A
Junior guard Jayden Heisler erupted for five three-point baskets in the second half and scored a game-high 28 points to dethrone the two-time defending champions and lead the No. 4-seeded Mahnomen-Waubun Thunderbirds to a 60-45 victory over No. 7 Lake Park-Audubon in the Minnesota north subsection boys basketball final of Section 6A at Concordia College Monday night.
“Nothing was falling for us in the first half,” Heisler said. “Our coach said we couldn’t hit water if we fell out of a boat. You’ve just got to come out and shoot with confidence.”
The Raiders refused to relinquish the lead in the first half.
Senior Garret Frank scored LP-A’s first eight points opening the game with an uncontested drive to the hoop and two three-pointers.
It took the Thunderbirds three minutes to get on the scoreboard and more than 13 minutes to get the game back to even on a Heisler basket in transition to tie the score 14-14 with four-minutes, 20-seconds remaining in the first half.
“They did a good job in the first half of really clogging the lane and took away any inside threat and we couldn’t make a shot,” said Thunderbirds’ head coach John Clark, Jr.
Every time Mahnomen-Waubun had a chance to go ahead, the Raiders came up with a rebound and a basket on the other end to go to the break up 25-22.
The message from Clark to his players in the locker room was trust in and stay with each other. The shots will fall.
The Raiders’ offensive leader Grant Pederson kept momentum going for LP-A taking the first possession of the second half and driving to pick up a field goal and a one to push the lead to 28-22.
LP-A battled to maintain the scoring edge while the Thunderbirds’ attack became more concentrated as time ticked away.
A pair of Parker Syverson free throws tied the score at 29, but Frank drilled his third three-pointer of the game to keep LP-A up 32-29.
A Dion Bower field goal pulled M-W within a point and Heisler started his barrage on the next possession giving the Birds a 34-32 lead stepping into his second three of the half.
Pederson drove the hoop to get buckets on two straight LP-A possessions but Heisler answered each made shot with a bomb from the arc. M-W led 40-36 with 12-minutes to go.
“He’s capable of doing that,” said Clark, Jr. “He can go on runs where he can make everything. Credit to his teammates who got him the ball where he could shoot it.”
Jon Starkey was big in the paint battling for rebounds; Bower kept calm control of the ball and the Birds’ defense made life uncomfortable for the Raiders taking over down the stretch.
The Thunderbirds took command and got up double figures 49-39 on Heisler’s fifth and final three-pointer.
The victory by the first-year co-op between the two towns gives fans from the town of Waubun a first-ever shot at going to the state boys basketball tournament.
“Getting some players from Mahnomen was a lot of help and I’m sure we’re a lot of help to them and having us come together made a better team,” said Heisler.
Mahnomen made four state appearances in 1973, 1975, 1976, and 1990. In a couple twists of irony, Mahnomen defeated Waubun to go to state in 1990. Thunderbirds’ head coach John Clark, Jr. was on that Waubun squad.
“I don’t think you could ask for a better start to a co-op,” said Clark, Jr. “These guys have really set the tone and given the communities something to rally behind in a positive manner. How can you not get behind them as hard as they try on the court?”
M-W used the free throw line to their advantage making 19 of 27 attempts (70 percent). The Raiders only got to the stripe 11 times making six (55 percent).
Pederson and Frank led LP-A with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Mahnomen-Waubun will face the Noah Kannegiesser and the top-seed from the south subsection, the Hancock Owls. Kannegiesser scored 36 points to lead the Owls to a 61-54 victory over No. 3 Ortonville.
LP-A 25 20 - 45
M-W 22 38 - 60
LPA-Grant Pederson 17, Garret Frank 14, Tyler Bjerke 6, Carter Raaen 5, Cody Wolfswinkel 2, Henry Jaster 1.
MW-Jayden Heisler 28, Parker Syverson 9, Dion Bower 8, Jon Starkey 8, Treston Spalla 5, Trenton Johnson 2.