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Boys Basketball: Litch falls in title game for second straight year

Litchfield's Riley Pater, left, Zach Whitchurch, middle, and Zach Kinny, left, absorb a second straight loss in the Class AA championship game of the Minnesota State Boys Basketball Tournament on Saturday. The Dragons lost to Minnehaha Academy 56-54 and finished 26-6. Tribune photo by Tom Larson.

MINNEAPOLIS – Two virtually identical seasons and both ended in disappointment for the Litchfield Dragons boys basketball team.

For the second straight year, the Dragons won 26 games, including six games in the postseason, only to fall in the Class AA state championship game.

On Saturday, Zach Whitchurch’s last-ditch shot to tie at the buzzer fell short and Minnehaha Academy began celebrating a 56-54 victory.

“Personally, I congratulated (the Dragons players),” Litchfield head coach John Carlson said. “We played some awfully good teams in the sub-section and section and in the first two rounds of the state tournament. I thought we were playing our best basketball at the end of the year and that seldom happens. I was proud of our guys.”

The Dragons finished 26-6. Riley Pater led the team with 16 points and Zach Kinny had 8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

Neither team led by more than six points throughout the game and the Dragons were able to take a one-point lead with about eight minutes to play.

But the Redhawks outrebounded the Dragons 33-20 – 13-4 on the offensive end – and held a 13-4 edge in second-chance points.

“That was the biggest key,” Carlson said. “We felt if they outrebounded us that we’d be in trouble.”

The Dragons trailed by two with 12 seconds left and wanted to stagger screen to get Whitchurch a jump shot. But the long and athletic Redhawks defended aggressively.

“I looked for a shot but they had a long guy on me so I tried to take it to the hole,” Whitchurch said. “I was pretty well covered by some long guys there so I tried to draw a foul and threw up a desperation shot, I guess.”

Carlson said the pain of losing will be short-lived.

“It’s hard but they’ll bounce back,” Carlson said. “They’re good kids. They’ll get into their spring sports and be successful in that, too. Then, they’ll graduate and move on and have good lives. They’re winners.”

See this web site and the Tribune’s Monday edition for more on the game.

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

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