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Wildcats denied chance to repeat

Erik Tengwall, center, of New London-Spicer drives against a Pelican Rapids player as teammate Chris Tobkin, left, look on Wednesday.1 / 2
Aaron Jenny, right, of New London-Spicer reaches for a rebound against a Pelican Rapids player during their state Class AA boys basketball quarterfinal game Wednesday. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS -- The defending state champions in Class AA returned to Williams Arena Wednesday evening, but this was a new model year.

The New London-Spicer Wildcats were outraced by Pelican Rapids 71-56 in the Class AA quarterfinals.

The loss ended the NLS season with a 23-9 record.

If the small-school divisions were seeded as are the two largest classes, it's likely Pelican Rapids would have been the No. 1.

The Section 8AA champions ended the season ranked No. 1 and its 30-0 record coming into the tournament made them the only unbeaten.

"It's hard to go home early," said NLS head coach Matt Cordes, who guided the Wildcats to the state championship one year ago. "They worked hard tonight. We gave it a run; there's nothing to be ashamed of."

The Vikings shot the lights out, making 10-of-22 three-pointers and shooting 47 percent from the field overall and 78 percent at the line. The Wildcats hit on 35 percent of their shots from the floor, but had a slight edge in rebounds, 37-35.

Pelican Rapids pulled ahead 41-30 out of the halftime break.

But the Wildcats' Jay Moten cashed consecutive three-pointers four minutes into the second half and got within 41-36, before the Vikings reeled off two baskets, making it 45-36. But then it was the younger Moten, Jayme, sticking a trey followed by a drive through the lane by Erik Tengwall to cut the Pelican Rapids' lead to 45-41. The Vikings called a timeout at 12:20.

Jayme Moten made a steal, missed the shot inside, got his own rebound, and handed off to Justin Zylstra, who scored to cut the Vikings' lead to 45-43.

Down 47-43, Tengwall cashed a three-pointer, thinning the Vikings' lead to 47-46.

NLS made a stop and Tengwall was fouled on the fast break. He made both free throws and NLS had the lead, 48-47, with 10 minutes left.

The Barn crowd roared, first one side, then the other, as the lead see-sawed.

The Wildcats headed to the iron, drawing fouls, if not always converting on awkward shots.

The Vikings opened a 58-52 lead at 5:30 on a steal and layup by Tyler Storrusten.

The NLS offense started to unravel as the shots stopped falling.

Storrusten supplied two other big plays as the Vikings seized the momentum. Twice he penetrated for and dished off to 6-6 Eric Shulstad for easy layups that became three-point plays when the senior center was fouled.

The lead went to 63-52 when Jan-Erik Lindberg drained his sixth 3-pointer of the game.

After Shulstad blocked a shot by Justin Zylstra below the iron, Storrusten sank two free throws for a 67-54 lead with 1:41 left.

"We just made too many mistakes (at the end)," said Cordes. "They're a good team and they capitalized. We tried to break them down early by attacking quickly to avoid (turnovers) against their trapping half-court defense."

The Wildcats got off to a solid start, jumping to a 13-5 advantage. Storrusten, the Vikings' top player averaging 26 points and eight assists, got in quick foul trouble and had to sit.

The Vikings, nonetheless, caught fire from the arc, especially Lindberg. He canned five of the team's eight three-pointers in the first 18 minutes for a 36-28 Pelican lead at intermission.

"We knew he could shoot and wasn't going to beat us off the dribble, but we didn't execute," said Cordes.

Pelican Rapids is trying to repeat a Class AA championship it won 25 years ago in 1984.

Lindberg finished with a game-high 20 points on six treys and two free throws. Shulstad, who went to guard in the first half with Storrusten on the bench, finished with 16 points, five blocks and 12 rebounds. Storrusten ended up with 15 points in just 22 minutes.

Jay Moten's 15 points topped NLS. He was followed by Jayme Moten with 11, Aaron Jenny 10 and Tengwall nine. Justin Zylstra made five steals and Aaron Johnson grabbed seven rebounds.

While the Vikings are nearly all seniors, the Wildcats will return most of their roster for next season.

Pelican Rapids 71, New London-Spicer 56

Pelican Rapids (31-0) 36 35 -- 71

NL-Spicer (23-9) 28 28 -- 56

PELICAN RAPIDS - 25-53 FG (10-22 3-pt); 11-14 FT; 35 rebounds; 19 fouls ... Scoring: Matt Haugen 2, Tydan Storrussten 15, Matt Skow-Anderson 8, Eric Shulstad 16, Jan-Erik Lindberg 20, Seth Lage 1, Andrew Sorum 1, Brian Guler 8 ... 3-point shots: Storrusten 1, Shulstad 2, Lindberg 6, Guler 1 ... Rebound leaders: Skow-Anderson 6, Shulstad 12 ... Assist leaders: Storrusten 5 ... Steal leaders: Skow-Anderson 7

NEW LONDON-SPICER - 19-55 FG (6-18 3-pt); 12-18 FT; 37 rebounds; 15 fouls ... Scoring: Jay Moten 15, Erik Tengwall 9, Jayme Moten 11, Justin Zylstra 6, Aaron Johnson 4, Jack Hartley 1, Aaron Jenny 10 ... 3-point shots: Jay Moten 3, Tengwall 1, Jayme Moten 2 ... Rebound leaders: Tengwall 5, Jayme Moten 5, Zylstra 5, Johnson 7, Jenny 6 ... Assist leaders: Jayme Moten 6 ... Steal leaders: Zylstra 5