Jubilant Jaguars: BBE boys win another Class A title
MINNEAPOLIS — It wasn’t the kind of season the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys basketball team hoped it would be, it was the season that it had to be.
Early Saturday afternoon, 371 days after the Jaguars’ greatest disappointment of the last three years, they yelled as they held aloft the Class A state championship trophy that was the focal point of their entire 2013-2014 season.
BBE held Rushford-Peterson to one point in the final six minutes of the Class A title game and Brian Goodwin cemented his status as the tournament’s top player, scoring 11 straight points down the stretch to lead the Jaguars to a 52-40 win over the Trojans at the Target Center. The Jaguars, playing in their third championship game in four years, brought home blue ribbons for the second time in three years. During the regular season and postseason, they spoke openly about having to make amends for a shocking loss, as a 25-win team, in the subsection semifinals last year. And hoisting the championship trophy was the only way to do that.
"Exactly," said BBE head coach Dave Montbriand when asked if this was a "state or bust" season. "That puts the pressure on, and we can kid ourselves and say that wasn’t the case but that’s where we were — state championship or bust. We would’ve been very disappointed not winning this game and it’s kind of sad when it gets to that point. But that’s the way it was."
His 31-1 team, led by nine seniors, was up to the task.
Their only loss came in a December tournament against defending Class AAAA state champ Apple Valley and their star Duke recruit, Tyus Jones. Of their 31 wins, Saturday’s 12-point win was their second-closest margin of victory behind a 10-point win over Maple Lake in early January.
They dispatched regular season opponents by an average margin of 30 points per game and were even harder on their seven postseason opponents, winning by an average of 34 points.
Despite the ease with which the ticked off their wins, their sustained smiles and roars as they celebrated their championship signaled a release of expectations as well as joy.
"It’s a crazy feeling," said BBE senior forward James Kuefler, who sparked the Jags by scoring all 10 of his points in the second half. "There’s no feeling like it. I can’t describe it."
"I’m so happy," said Goodwin, who led BBE with 24 points and 10 rebounds. "All the hard work we put in all year comes down to this last game and we got the win. It’s something special."
The Jaguars had every chance to fold against their toughest postseason opponent.
BBE stormed out of the blocks, opening scoring the game’s first 11 points and holding Rushford-Peterson scoreless for more than five minutes to start the game. Then, the Jags went cold. They shot just 39 percent — hitting only 1-of-7 from 3-point range — and the Trojans took a 25-21 lead into their halftime locker room. But no one in the Jaguars’ locker room was worried, said BBE senior forward Billy Borgerding.
"It was an emotional game," Borgerding said. "In the locker room, we were down four but that’s where we were two years ago (in the 2012 title game against Southwest Minnesota Christian), down four to a good team. We came back and won that game so we knew we could do it again."
"They never panicked," Montbriand said. "I told them, ‘Stay calm, stay calm. You’ve got 18 minutes left.’ And I don’t think I needed to tell them that. They’re smart enough to know that the key is to not panic. They kept playing good defense and looking for good shots."
In a battle of two stellar defensive teams, R-P blinked first in the second half. The Trojans shot 50 percent in the first half but BBE limited them to just five baskets and 15 secondhalf points. R-P was able to hang with the Jags on the boards in the first half but BBE dominated in the second, outrebounding the Trojans 27-8 in the second half and 42-20 overall.
R-P’s Jorli Hauge scored with 6:14 left to tie the game at 39 and Cole Kingsley’s free throw five minutes later would be the last point the Trojans would score.
"I think their length hurt us today," said Rushford-Peterson head coach Tom Vix. "They’re a very long, athletic team and they’ve got, by far, the best guard (Goodwin) in the tournament."
R-P held off the Jaguars until about midway through the second half, when Goodwin took over on the offensive end. With about nine minutes left, he drove hard to the basket, drew a foul and strong-armed the ball into the hoop. The usually stoic Goodwin picked himself off the floor, let out a whoop and pumped his first. He drained the foul shot for a three-point play that put BBE up 35-34 and, more importantly, turned the game’s emotional tide.
Goodwin scored 11 straight BBE points, then passed to Borgerding, who dropped in a layup and drew another R-P foul for a three-point play that made it 46-39 with 3:16 to play. Goodwin then expertly orchestrated BBE’s offensive keep-away that resulted in four more Borgerding free throws and a Kuefler layup.
"He’s really good and he played like it today," Vix said of Goodwin. "It’s not like we were not trying to guard him but when he gets out in transition and you get him in space, it’s tough. When he’s locked up oneand-one, there nothing you can do. He’s a heady, smart player. He was patient early and when he got those opportunities later, he was a handful."
"We always try to push the ball," Goodwin said. "In the end, I think we just pushed the ball faster than they got back, which helped a lot. They’re a great defensive team so we just tried to work the ball around fast, get open shots and knock them down."
The Jaguars knocked down enough to finally get last season off their backs.
"You’re going to have to earn it against Rushford-Peterson," Montbriand said. "They have good fundamentals, they’re not going to give the ball away and they’re physical and aggressive on defense. We really had to earn everything we got today."
BBE 52, Rushford-Peterson 40
BBE (31-1)............................21 31 — 52
Rushford-Peterson (31-2)....25 15 — 40
BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA – 18-48 FG (1-12 3-pt); 145-24 FT; 42 rebounds; 11 fouls … Shooting (fgm-fga ftm-fta points): Tanner Heinsius 3-8 0-0 6, Trey Heinsius 1-2 0-0 3, James Kuefler 5-9 0-4 10, Billy Borgerding 2-11 5-5 9, Brian Goodwin 7-17 10-15 24, David Rodgers 0-1 0-0 0, Justin Schmitz 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Carroll 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Schumann 0-0 0-0 0, Dalon Bitzan 0-0 0-0 0, Nick Benton 0-0 0-0 0 … 3-point shots: Trey Heinsius 1-2, Tanner Heinsius 0-2, Borgerding 0-4, Kuefler 0-0, Goodwin 0-3, Rodgers 0-1 … Rebound leaders: Tanner Heinsius 2, Trey Heinsius 7, Kuefler 9, Borgerding 7, Goodwin 10, Rodgers 2, Benton 2 … Assist leaders: Tanner Heinsius 1, Kuefler 2, Goodwin 3 … Steal leaders: Tanner Heinsius 1, Kuefler 2, Goodwin 3 … Blocks: Trey Heinsius 1
RUSHFORD-PETERSON – 14-37 FG (5-19 3-pt); 7-15 FT; 20 rebounds; 19 fouls … Shooting (fgm-fga ftm-fta points): Seth Thompson 0-3 0-0 0, Austin O’Hare 3-6 0-0 7, Cole Kingsley 3-7 5-9 11, Jori Hauge 2-5 1-2 5, Alex Vix 4-10 1-4 12, Charlie Krambeer 2-5 0-0 5, Jacob Merklewitz 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler McLellan 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Ruberg 0-0 0-0 0, Hudson Stensgard 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Carlson 0-1 0-0 0 … 3-point shots: Thompson 0-1, O’Hare 1-4, Kingsley 0-1, Hauge 0-1, Vix 3-8, Krambeer 1-4 … Rebound leaders: Thompson 3, O’Hare 6, Kingsley 4, Hauge 5, Vix 1, Carlson 1 … Assist leaders: Thompson 3, O’Hare 1, Kingsley 1, Hauge 1, Krambeer 2 … Steal leaders: Thompson 3, Kingsley 3 … Blocks: Hauge 1