No. 2-seeded Goodhue came out on fire from downtown and built a first half lead the Lake Park-Audubon Raiders could not erase in a 57-37 Wildcats’ victory in the Class A state quarterfinals at Williams Arena in Minneapolis Thursday afternoon.
The Raiders never led in the game and were behind quickly 13-4 five minutes into play on three-point baskets by Nicholas Thomforde, Taylor Buck and a pair by Ben Opsahl.
LP-A came in with the defensive strategy to allow the three-point shot.
“Instead of letting (Jacob) McNamara and Opsahl beat us down low like they did last year, we said ‘we’re going to give up baseline threes,’” said Raiders’ head coach Kyle Haberman. “We gave up the shot we wanted; they knocked them down - credit to them. You go with a gameplan and you stick with it.”
The Wildcats turned the Raiders over often in the opening minutes and forced 11 first half gaffes, while only committing four on the offensive end.
Goodhue continued to bombard the Raider zone from outside making 10 three pointers in the opening 18 minutes.
LP-A went to center Jesse Bergh down low and Bergh scored 11 first half points, but picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and his third, on a weak call on a loose ball under the basket 90 seconds before halftime.
“Overall, this is kind of what we wanted to do,” said Goodhue head coach Matt Halverson. “We wanted to wear (Bergh) down and when he got in foul trouble that was big for us.”
Both centers were in the crosshairs of the referees as McNamara left the game early with two quick fouls.
Goodhue was content to work the ball slowly around the three-point line and outside the Raiders’ defensive zone with a 14-point lead at 25-11 and held that buffer to the halftime horn leading 34-20 at intermission.
The Wildcats frustrated the Raiders with their slow and methodical style of play.
“It’s very frustrating; personally, I think there should be a shot clock so they can’t run down eight minutes,” said Bergh. “If that’s the way they’ve got to play to win then they’re going to do it.”
“They’re good at it,” said Haberman. “They’re really good. Coach Halverson is fantastic at what he does. They are a composed team; they know how to grind those out. They get up 12 then they just pound it for three minutes. It’s tough to defend.”
Buck led the first half charge sinking four of six three-pointers for a dozen points by halftime.
Grant Pederson and Mike Vohnoutka gave the Raiders a needed shot in the arm out of the break with back-to-back three-pointers to pull within eight points 34-26 with plenty of time on the clock.
Defensively, LP-A switched to an inverted triangle and the Wildcats countered with McNamara head-to-head with Bergh on foul watch.
At the 12-minute mark, Mitch Hall hit a three-pointer to get the Raiders within seven points trailing 38-31 but McNamara and Thomforde responded to push back up by double figures 42-31.
LP-A’s Garrett Frank was fouled behind the arc on the ensuing possession but missed all three free throws and McNamara made the Raiders pay on back-to-back possessions.
McNamara had his hands full with the future Minnesota State University-Moorhead Dragon Bergh in the middle.
“It’s hard; I tried to get under him as much as I could - make a two-foot shot into a four, and four-foot into a six,” said McNamara. “We had a lot of help, double teaming on him.”
Needing a bucket bad, Bergh spun in the paint but his shot over McNamara found the back iron and the Wildcats began to run time and stretched the lead to 20 points at the five-minute mark and led by as many as 26 points down the stretch.
Bergh led all scorers with 17 points and was one rebound away from a double-double with nine boards.
“On defense, they did a good job, I’ll give ‘em that,” said Bergh. “They’ve got a big guy in back and it’s hard for our guards to get up the court.”
Grant Pederson scored 10 points for the Raiders while Mitch Hall was held to only five.
Thomforde led the Cats with 15 points; Buck added 12 and Opsahl scored 10.
The Raiders entered the game winners of eight straight. LP-A came into the 2016 state quarterfinal game against Goodhue winners of 22 straight and met the same fate Thursday as last year in a Goodhue performance that was right off the Wildcats’ chalkboard.
Goodhue (29-3) will play the winner of No. 3 Central Minnesota Christian (26-3) and North Woods (29-1) at Target Center in Minneapolis Friday, March 24 at 2 p.m. in the championship semifinals.
Lake Park-Audubon (22-7) will face the loser of that game in consolation play Friday at noon at Concordia University in St. Paul.
LPA 20 17 — 37
GDH 34 23 — 57
LPA - Bergh 17, Pederson 10, Hall 5, Vohnoutka 3, Hannesson 2.
GDH - Thomforde 15, Buck 12, Opsahl 10, McNamara 8, S. Opsahl 5, Evenson 3, Alpers 2, L. Thomforde 2.