St. Cloud Apollo shoots past Lakers to win Section 8-3A championship

ST. CLOUD - Heading into the Section 8-3A championship game, the Detroit Lakes boys' basketball team focused on St. Cloud Apollo's "bigs" and planned on taking the Eagles' inside attack away.

Mollberg shot
Detroit Lakes' Joe Mollberg (4) puts up a shot against St. Cloud Apollo during the Section 8-3A championship game in St. Cloud Thursday night. Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

ST. CLOUD - Heading into the Section 8-3A championship game, the Detroit Lakes boys' basketball team focused on St. Cloud Apollo's "bigs" and planned on taking the Eagles' inside attack away.

But ironically, it was the Eagles' "smalls" which decided the game, as St. Cloud Apollo broke a three-game losing streak in the Section 8-3A championship tilt with a convincing 68-41 win over the Lakers.

The Eagles broke out in the first half after shooting 56 percent from the field, which included five three pointers, to extend a comfortable 36-18 halftime lead.

The Lakers' game plan of taking away SCA's second-chance points worked, as the Eagles had only five offensive rebounds and eight putback points off them in the first half.

But the Eagles poured in five three-pointers, after DL's defense was collapsing in on the frontcourt of senior forwards Blake Maslonkowski (6-5) and Ryan Tesch (6-7), along with center Simon Krych (6-9).


What resulted was open space on the perimeter for the SCA guards -- and they cashed in.

"Our guards' perimeter shooting was huge," said Maslonkowski, who led all scorers with 18 points. "All week in practice, Coach (Dean Kesler) told us forwards to kick it back out when they doubled down on us.

"Our guards hit their shots."

The biggest three came by senior point guard Ibrahim Abukar, who sunk his second of the first half at the buzzer to put the Eagles up by 18 points at 36-18.

"That last shot before halftime really hurt us," said DL head coach Robb Flint. "It just gave them all sorts of momentum. But, we knew we had to give up something to them, so we decided to dig in and make them hit their jumpers.

"And they did just that."

SCA finished the game shooting 59 percent from the field and 7-13 from beyond the three-point arc. Abukar was 3-3 from three-point land, while senior guard Derek Steve was 2-3 and Tesch was 2-5.

DL on the other hand, shot 40 percent in the game and just 35 percent in the first half.


The Lakers were also hurt when they lost senior point guard Connor Hedstrom, after he hurt his calf midway through the first half.

"Losing Connor hurt, too, because he's our field general," Flint added.

The Lakers' goal heading into the game was to stay at pace with the Eagles in rebounding.

That didn't happen, either.

The Eagles outboarded DL by an 18-8 margin in the decisive first half, while finishing with a hefty 32-12 edge.

"We just haven't been out-rebounded like that before," Flint said. "Plus when they are shooting 59 percent, you can't get out and run."

The Eagles used a 13-4 run to end the first half, which was keyed by three SCA treys, while holding DL to one-and-done possessions with a dominating defensive rebounding attack.

The Lakers' strength of running the floor was also non-existent, after scoring just two fast-break points the entire game.


With SCA shooting 59 percent, that slowed the Lakers down plenty, as well as the Eagles' ability to run with them.

"We just wanted to get back and play defense to stop their transition game," Maslonkowski said. "We're used to running, too."

The second half started like the first one ended, with SCA draining open perimeter shots.

Steve's three on the Eagles' second possession put them up 41-20. He later hit a second at the 14:11 mark for the 46-25 lead.

"If our guards are hitting their outside shots, we are a tough team," said St. Cloud Apollo head coach Dean Kesler. "When we're hitting our three's, we are tough and that makes our bigs that much better."

The Lakers (21-8) couldn't muster much of a comeback in the second half, as the Eagles kept going inside to wear out DL, which led to more second-chance points -- 11 in the final half to be exact.

"They came to play," said junior guard Joe Mollberg, who finished with a team-high 15 points. "Our plan was to take away their inside game and their guards came out and hit their shots.

"It wouldn't have mattered who would have played them, they were out on a mission."


Laker senior Josh Stalberger finished with 14 points, but more importantly had five rebounds.

That makes him the all-time rebounder in Laker history with 495.

The Eagles had four players in double digits, with Maslonkowski leading the way with 18, Abukar with 17, Krych with 13 and Steve finished with 12 points.

Krych added 11 rebounds, while Maslonkowski and Abukar had seven boards apiece.

With the section championship monkey off their back, St. Cloud Apollo can now give a big sigh of relief.

"After seven times here and three times losing it in a row, I'm just happy for the guys," Kesler said.

Maslonkowski added he and his teammates had another person they were doing it for.

"We did it for coach," he added.


The Eagles (25-4) will play the Section 7-3A champion next Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Williams Arena.

Laker results

Section 8-3A championship at St. Cloud State University, Thursday, March 17: (1) St. Cloud Apollo vs. (3) Detroit Lakes.

Lakers 18 23 - 41

Eagles 36 32 - 68

Scoring (2-3-ftm-fta-pts) -- DL: Joe Mollberg 4-2-1-2-15; Brian Labat 1-0-2-2-4; Josh Stalberger 6-0-2-4-14; Connor Hedstrom 0-1-0-0-3; Connor McLeod 1-0-0-0-2; Kirk McLeod 0-0-1-2-1; Rick Hutchinson 1-0-0-0-2. TEAM: 13-3-6-12-41.

SCA: Ryan Tesch 0-2-0-0-6; Blake Maslonkowski 6-0-6-8-18; Simon Krych 6-0-1-2-13; Derek Steve 1-2-4-4-12; Ibrahim Abukar 2-3-4-4-17; Trevor Teasch 1-0-0-0-2. TEAM: 26-7-15-18-68.

Stats (rbd-assists-steals) -- DL: Mollberg 1-1-0; Labat 1-2-1; Stalberger 5-2-0; C. McLeod 1-2-2; Hedstrom 0-0-2; K. McLeod 2-0-0; Hutchinson 2-1-5. TEAM: 12-9-10.


SCA: R. Tesch 5-2-0; Maslonkowski 7-1-0; Krych 11-0-2; Steve 1-1-0; Abukar 7-4-1; Chris Otte 0-2-0; B. Maslonkowski 1-0-0. TEAM: 32-11-3.

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