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Goodhue stunned by North Woods

Goodhue's Jacob McNamara reacts after missing a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer while North Woods rushes the floor during Friday's Class 1A state semifinal game at Target Center. Joe Brown/Forum News Service

It was a shot that Jacob McNamara said he’s made since third or fourth grade.

Down 51-49 to unseeded North Woods with 2.3 seconds to go, Goodhue wanted to get the ball to either Ben Opsahl or McNamara in hopes of sending the game to overtime. McNamara got the inbounds pass and put up a jumper from the free-throw line.

“I had a good look. I thought it was down,” McNamara said.

“But it just didn’t go in.”

As McNamara’s jumper ricocheted off the back of the hoop, North Woods soaked in the limelight with their second-straight bracket-busting upset with a 51-49 victory Friday at Target Center.

In the quarterfinals Thursday, Cade Goggleye shocked Class 1A with a half-court buzzer-beater to take out third-seeded Central Minnesota Christian. Then on Friday, Goggleye played hero again, hitting a pair of game-winning free throws with 4.7 seconds to go.

What’s more nerve-wracking: A buzzer-beater or the isolation of the free-throw line?

“I’d say two free throws,” Goggleye said. “They make you think about them more. ... I was thinking we either go to a state championship or we go to third place. And I didn’t want to go to third place.”

Goodhue managed to jump out to an 8-0 lead to start the game. But, the Grizzlies were able to bounce back while forcing the Wildcats into some rather unusual mistakes.

“They average 15 steals a game. We looked at that and thought we should be able to handle that. We knew they had some good defense, but we had some uncharacteristic turnovers by not just one of our guys but all of our guys,” said Goodhue head coach Matt Halverson after the team had 14 turnovers compared to four for North Woods. “When you start getting steals for easy buckets, you get points for them and mojo also goes their way. It took us until the second half to play good basketball.”

And on the perimeter, Tate Olson was a constant thorn in the Wildcats’ side, scoring a game-high 20 points for the Grizzlies on 7 of 14 shooting, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

“I can’t stress enough how good of ball handlers Cade Goggleye and Brendan Parson are. They set people up for good opportunities to score,” Olson said. “It felt good. I was getting into a rhythm and everything was in a flow.”

Halverson added, “If you watched them in the quarterfinals, you could tell he could stroke. We tried to do more of a 3-2 zone instead of our 2-3 to take away those shots. We gave them a few fits, but then they’re knocking down 25-foot shots and that’s pretty hard to defend.”

Neither team could pull away in the second half as Goodhue and North Woods traded the lead nine times and tied seven times. After the Grizzlies shot 52.6 percent in the first half, the Wildcats’ defense returned to form by holding their opponent to 27.3 percent in the second half.

“We just wanted to attack. We felt like we weren’t attacking all that much (in the first half),” said senior guard Ben Opsahl, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals. “We just had to get something going.”

With 1:38 left to play, Goodhue’s Sam Opsahl, who had eight points off the bench, hit a layup to tie the game at 49-49.

“We didn’t have the energy we usually do (in the first half),” said McNamara, who had a team-high 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. “In the second half, I thought we battled with them. We were flying around, energy was high.”

The Grizzlies held for the last shot and in trying to go for a steal, Nicholas Thomforde was called for reaching, putting Goggleye at the line for the game-winning free throws.

“These guys have tremendous confidence in their abilities. They don’t rattle,” said North Woods head coach Will Kleppe. “Their poise under pressure has carried them well under the tournament. Tournament history is full of these kind of things where a relative unknown makes a run. If anyone would have paid attention to how these guys are able to play, they wouldn’t be as surprised to see the spot we’re in.”

Editor's note: Goodhue defeated Lake Park-Audubon in the state quarterfinal round.