For the third straight year, #7 SG (1-seed 24-3) faced off with R-P (2-seed, 19-8) for the 1A East title. The Lions entered in rare territory; they’d won three straight over the Trojans (including 53-43 in January). R-P threw the first punch, answering an opening SG three-pointer with a 9-0 spurt. Defensively, they scrapped their typical 1-3-1 half-court trap for a triangle and two, the focuses to curtail Lion 6’3” senior G/F Chase Grinde and 5’9” sophomore guard Alex Folz. Grinde attempted just one first half shot. Folz made just one. Nonetheless, SG rallied from 9-3 down and still lead at intermission, 19-18. R-P missed its first ten threes and went 1 for 12 in the half. In the second, the Trojans’ most well-known player made an impact. Trailing 28-24, Noah Carlson hit a three, then converted a three-point play, back-to-back, to put the Trojans ahead 30-28 (9-plus left). With it tied at 33, Luke Rasmussen scored eight straight points to put R-P up 41-35 (2:44). But Carlson, the Trojans best facilitator and most disruptive defensive presence, fouled out (3:32). SG ramped up their 1-3-1 half-court trap in lieu. The six point lead was erased. Folz tied the game (41-41) with free throws (1:05). Stepping up as facilitator for the Trojans was junior G/F Jake Paulson. He found Dawson Dahl for a lay-up (43-41 > 0:47). Grinde missed a three. Trojan Payton Hahn was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one (0:33.9). Grinde then got fouled and made two (43-43). The Trojans took possession with 24.6 seconds left. SG continued its defensive pressure. Paulson drove and kicked to sophomore Landon Skalet. In the same corner Kingsland’s Buchholtz buried a three to tie SG late in the semis, the kid whose name jives with “hits it” and “wins it”, Skalet, did both. He sank a three over 6’5” Noah Myrah with 0:05.1 left! R-P went ahead 46-43. After a timeout, Grinde got the in-bound pass, got up-court and rose for a game-tying three from about the same spot Folz nailed his to beat the Knights. Rasmussen got a late hand up. Grinde clutched the shot. It was off. Trojan-nation went euphoric. Their boys reclaimed the 1A East title 46-43 in a hard-fought defense scrap. Paulson led the Trojan charge (11 pts, 5-8 FGs, 5 rebs, season-high 7 assists all in the second half, 4 stls). His passes proceeded R-P’s last four field goals. Carlson (8 pts, 6 rebs, 3 assists, 4 stls), Rasmussen (8 pts) and Skalet (8 pts) were his best help. R-P hit 5 of 13 second half threes after their 1 of 12 first half. Grinde (11 pts, 5 rebs) was high-man for the Lions. Folz, who had 23 points (seven threes) in the regular season, was held to five. In a tremendous team defensive feat, R-P held the duo to 11 shots, five makes (16 points). They had 11 makes in January on 27 attempts (31 points). Sophomore Noah Elton, who didn’t play in the regular season versus R-P or versus Kingsland in the semis, had 10 points. The Lions went 1 of 9 from three in the second half, missing their last six. Grinde missed his last four. R-P won turnovers (11 to 18), the offensive glass (12 to 5), and second-chance-points (14 to 3). SG (12 of 16) won at the free throw, where R-P (4 of 13) struggled. It’s the Trojans’ seventh straight 20-win season. In a second post-season teacher (Vix) versus student (Matt Halverson) battle, R-P will face Goodhue (West 1-seed, 27-3) for the Section 1A title.
About Paul Trende