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Morris, New London-Spicer boys' third meeting will send one to state

ST. CLOUD -- It's not all that uncommon for teams to play each other more than twice in a season. But that's if the teams are in the same conference.

Both New London-Spicer, Section 6AA-East and defending state Class AA boys basketball champion, and Morris Area, Section 6AA-West champion, are both in the West Central Conference, but in different divisions.

They met Feb. 27 at Morris with the Tigers (23-4) winning 56-53. The Wildcats (22-8) hosted the interconference championship a week later and North champ NLS beat South champ Morris, 76-64.

Today, the Wildcats and Tigers will meet for the third time this season, at St. Cloud State University's Halenbeck Hall, for the Section 6AA title and a berth in the Class AA tournament. Game time is 8:15 p.m.

Playing someone twice in a season gives a team a good idea of what to expect, according to Wildcat coach Matt Cordes.

"Morris has an athletic, physical and well-balanced team," he wrote via email. "Coach Torgerson has them playing well and it should be a very hard played game."

"NLS outrebounded us and hit a bunch of threes in their win at New London," Morris coach Mark Torgerson responded, also by email. "When we won in Morris, they shot a much lower percentage and we rebounded much better."

Both teams have balanced scoring attacks and have good size. Morris is led by juniors Lincoln Arnold (14.6 points-per-game) and Jackson Henrich (12.7 ppg), and senior Chris Scott (12.3 ppg). NLS responds with junior Erik Tengwall (15.4 ppg) and seniors Jay Moten (14.7) and Aaron Johnson (13.0 ppg), plus the experience of being in this position each of the last two seasons.

"Well you hope it helps having been there the last few years, but no matter how many times you've been there you still get wonderfully nervous and excited," Cordes said. "It is as loud and intense and as emotional as high school basketball gets."

Torgerson grants that the Wildcats have more experience in this type of game.

"It may give them a slight edge especially since they've played at St. Cloud State. It's our first trip to St. Cloud, but I don't think it's a huge factor."

The winner will face the Section 8AA champion -- either Pelican Rapids or Crosby-Ironton -- in the quarterfinals of the Class AA tournament at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Williams Arena.