MINNEAPOLIS -- Lights, cameras ... and action!
The MACCRAY Wolverines will take Target Center stage on TV today at noon after a 61-52 quarterfinal win over Maranatha Christian Academy on Thursday in the Class A quarterfinals at Williams Arena.
The Wolverines will meet a nearby, but still unfamiliar foe. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa sailed into the semifinal round with a 16-point win over Goodhue in the first of four small-school games on the Golden Gophers' floor on Thursday afternoon.
"We saw them for the first time today," said MACCRAY's Seth Hinrichs. "I don't think we've ever played them, not even in grade school."
Hinrichs finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Brady Boike popped for 19 points, 12 of those in the first half which ended with MACCRAY up by three.
Corey Abbas and Riley Aeikens each added eight points. In the second half, with the Mustangs threatening, Abbas and Aeikens were a combined 11-of-12 at the free-throw line.
The Wolverines' first-ever win at the state boys basketball tournament (they were one-and-done in 1996) didn't come easily. The Mustangs' quickness, especially Darian Pittman, kept the game close until about the five-minute mark of the second half when two free throws by Aiekens and back-to-back layups by Boike expanded a four-point lead to 51-41.
It seemed clear the Wolverines didn't rattle down the stretch before the big crowd which produced thunderous responses to the big plays.
"They keep playing with more confidence and poise," said MACCRAY head coach Gary Nelson. "They're not scared rabbits out there, though maybe I was."
The Mustangs suffered only their third loss in 29 games. The others were to Eden Prairie, a state tourney team in AAAA, and The Blake School.
"MACCRAY's a very nice team," said MCA's Pittman, a junior who scored 19 points and had a game-high three steals. "Seth is a great player with a nice feel for the game."
Pittman said it didn't help the Mustangs to lose their best three-point shooter, Jamey Hammond, nine minutes into the first half with a leg injury.
"That hurt," said Mustangs' head coach Jeff Wall. "But we just didn't have enough firepower today. They kept us from shooting the threes, which is a big part of our game. Hinrichs is so smooth. He's has so much poise and an all-around game for a high-schooler."
Both coaches are in their 32nd year as a head coach. Wall came into the final eight with 508 wins; Nelson now has 484.
The first half was expertly played with no team gaining an upper hand.
One of Pittman's corkscrew drives put his team up 22-17 at 2:11. MACCRAY then went on an eight-point run to end the half. Abbas made an ally-oop pass to Hinrichs soaring to the iron for a dunk and a 23-22 lead with 21 seconds left. Then, off a Hinrichs rebound and a Taylor Thissen feed, Boike's layup at the buzzer made it 25-22.
In the second half, MCA fought back, going up 27-25, and gaining ties at 33-all and 35-all. But the Wolverines answered with a 7-0 run on back-to-back buckets and a free throw, all by Hinrichs, and then a layup by Thissen for a 42-35 spread at 9:34. A basket by Jordan SaVaughn got the Mustangs to within three, but a Jamie Boonstra free throw got the lead up to four and the Mustangs didn't get closer over the last eight minutes.
"It's exciting to come out with a win and get to play at the Target Center on TV," said Hinrichs.
"Brady really played a big first half for us," said Nelson. "Everyone is thinking about Hinrichs, so it's nice to have two guys they have to worry about."
Three-pointers were a rarity for both teams: MACCRAY was 0-for-8 and Maranatha Christian 1-for-11.
Both teams made 22 field goals, but the Wolverines made 17-of-26 at the free-throw line to the Mustangs 7-of-10.
Despite a height advantage, the Wolverines edge in rebounding was just at 34-33.
MACCRAY 61, Maranatha 52
MACCRAY (27-3) 25 36 -- 61
Maranatha CA (26-3) 22 30 -- 52
MACCRAY - 22-46 FG (0-8 3-pt); 17-26 FT; 34 rebounds; 14 fouls ... Scoring (FG-FT-PTS): Corey Abbas 1-2 6-6 8, Jamie Boonstra 0-1 1-2 1, Riley Aeikens 1-9 6-7 8, Brady Boike 9-16 1-4 19, Seth Hinrichs 9-16 3-5 21, Jarrod Holmgren 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Wrede 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Thissen 2-2 0-2 4 ... 3-point shots: Boonstra 0-1, Aeikens 0-3, Hinrichs 0-4 ... Rebound leaders: Hinrichs 15, Aeikens 6, Boike 6 ... Assist leaders: Aeikens 5 ... Steal leaders: Aeikens 2
MARANATHA CHRISTIAN ACADEMY - 22-58 FG (1-11 3-pt); 7-10 FT; 33 rebounds; 21 fouls ... Scoring (FG-FT-PTS): Jamey Hammond 1-4 0-0 2, Darian Pittman 8-23 3-4 19, Isaiah Hanson 7-12 1-1 16, SaVaughn Jordan 5-12 3-5 13, Philip Eickman 1-6 0-0 2, John Neumann 0-0 0-0 0, Zachary Penn 0-1 0-0 0 ... 3-point shots: Hanson 1-4, Hammond 0-3, Pittman 0-4 ... Rebound leaders: Eickman 9, Hanson 9, Jordan 7, Pittman 5 ... Assist leaders: Pittman 4 ... Steal leaders: Pittman 3, Hanson 2