Boys basketball: Wolverines hold off scrappy Panthers in first round of the section tournament
No.12 Park Rapids made things interesting in the first round of the Section 8AA tournament as the No. 5 Wadena-Deer Creek boys basketball team narrowly avoid a first-round exit.
WADENA – The Wadena-Deer Creek boys basketball team held onto a two-point lead in the final seconds Thursday night at home to move onto the second round of the Section 8AA tournament.
Wolverines head coach Kevin Tumberg said it best in a post-game interview: His fifth-seeded team “survived” 52-50 over the scrappy 12th-seeded Park Rapids Panthers to advance to play Hawley at home on Saturday, if the weather allows for it. Hawley, being the higher seed at No. 4, gets to host the second round game.
“Tip the cap to Park Rapids, they came out and gave us absolutely everything we could handle. They made timely shots and great passes to get guys open,” coach Tumberg said. “Our guys really dug in and got big stops when necessary and made huge shots down the stretch. Playoff wins aren’t easy to find and we are sure happy we found one!”
Wadena-Deer Creek improved to 20-7 on the season, tying the boys team’s single-season win total record set first by the 1973-74 Wolverines. The Panthers fell to 5-22 on the season, and graduated six seniors.
As coach Tumberg alluded, the Wolverines’ win was never assured for the game’s entire 36 minutes. In fact, the first half featured five lead changes before the Wolverines battled their way to a 27-24 halftime lead. It would take that cushion to hold off the Panthers in the second half.
And as exciting as the first half of play was, the game’s second half didn’t disappoint either.
While the Panthers would lead only once in the second half at 34-33 with about 12 minutes left, they managed to tie up the game three other times. The most important being when Park Rapids junior Noah Larson drained a 3-pointer from the corner to draw the Panthers to a 46-46 tie with six minutes left in the game.
By this point, the entire gym was on its feet, with deafening cheers echoing from both the visitors and home team’s fans rocking the house.
The game would remain tied for three intense, action-packed minutes before Wolverines sophomore Kobe Snyder hit an open three with just more than three minutes left to give WDC a 49-46 lead. Both teams would trade buckets over the next 90 seconds to set up a dramatic 51-50 finish with about 43 seconds left in the game.
With the lead and the ball in possession, the Wolverines slowed the game down, and Park Rapids was forced to foul twice to put WDC on the line. Junior Peyton Church hit a free throw with 18 seconds left to extend the Wolverines' lead to 52-50, but everyone was still holding their breath.
On their last possession, the Panthers managed to get the ball upcourt without problem, but a suffocating Wolverines defense kept them from quickly scoring. And so Park Rapids called a timeout with 6.1 seconds left.
After the break, the Panthers managed to inbound the ball, deliver a couple of passes and get the ball into the hands of senior Mason Yliniemi, who with the final seconds ticking off put up a long contested jumper that missed the mark.
The Wolverines “survived” 52-50.
“Fortunately, he missed that shot, we got the board, and we move on,” coach Tumberg said. “Life’s good.”
Tumberg said that coming into the contest, the Wolverines emphasized defense. And he said it was ultimately their defense that kept the Panthers from knocking down a game-winning bucket in the final seconds of the game. “We knew defense would win the game,” he said.
Junior Teshome Loer and Snyder led the Wolverines with 15 and 14 points respectively, while WDC also received contributions from Church (9), Isaac Hamaan (7) and Josiah Kallevig (7).
“Our guards can really move the ball,” Tumberg said. “Our offense flowed through them tonight.”
Junior Josiah Kallevig led the Wolverines with eight rebounds and Loer and senior Isaac Hamann followed with six each. Hamann also led the team in blocks with two, and the team totaled five on the night. Loer and Synder each had two steals to lead the team.
PR 24 26 - 50
WDC 27 25 - 52
PARK RAPIDS – Noah Morris: 1 block, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Blake Morris: 5 points, 3 rebounds; Cory Johnson: 4 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Mason Yliniemi: 6 points, 7 rebounds; Noah Larson: 19 points, 1 block, 5 rebounds; Ryan Carroll: 17 points, 1 block, 4 rebounds, 1 steal; Luke Hartung: 1 rebound.
WADENA-DEER CREEK – Teshome Loer: 15 points, 1 block, 6 rebounds, 2 steals; Lyrik Haug: 2 rebounds; Kobe Snyder: 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals; Isaac Hamann: 7 points, 2 blocks, 6 rebounds; Kallevig: 7 points, 1 block, 8 rebounds; Peyton Church: 9 points, 1 block, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; Phillip Ross: 1 rebound; Nathaniel Peterson: 4 rebounds.