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Boys Basketball: MACCRAY secures 3A title, 70-61

MACCRAY guard Corey Abbas, right, drives at the top of the key as Jeff Sandbulte of Hills-Beaver Creek attempts to keep pace in the first half Thursday at Southwest Minnesota State University in the Section 3A championship game in Marshall. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)1 / 2
MACCRAY players celebrate in the final minute Thursday as the starters come off the floor at Southwest Minnesota State University, including Riley Aeikens, far right. He's being welcomed by, from left, Seth Hinrichs, Cody Boonstra and Brady Boike. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)2 / 2

MARSHALL -- The MACCRAY Wolverines ended a 12-year drought for Section 3A-North teams Thursday when they knocked off Hills-Beaver Creek 70-61 in the section championship game.

The last 3A-North team to reach state was Central Minnesota Christian of Prinsburg in 1998.

"It's about time," chuckled winning coach Gary Nelson in the post-game celebration on the court at Southwest Minnesota State. MACCRAY earned its first state trip since 1996.

The Wolverines, a Class AA team much of the past decade, lost in last year's 3A championship game to five-time champion Ellsworth.

HBC's only lead was at 2-0 as MACCRAY held the upper hand from the 10-minute mark on after they spurted to a 21-14 lead.

"I thought we played very well," said Nelson. "We talked about playing with poise and confidence and focusing on rebounding and defense. We did all four."

The Wolverines (26-3) will learn their state quarterfinal opponent tonight when Minnesota Transitions, the 2010 state champion, plays Maranatha Christian Academy in the 4A final. Class A gets underway Thursday at Williams Arena with the 3A vs. 4A game at 1 p.m.

As the Patriots feared, they could do little to throttle down Seth Hinrichs. The 6-foot-7 senior, a Division I recruit, worked his way to 22 points and 13 rebounds.

He said that last year's 76-71 loss to Ellsworth still echoed.

"Last year we started strong and had a lead, but when they made a run we had no answer and lost our momentum," said Hinrichs. "This year we were able to deal with it."

The Wolverines held a comfortable 36-28 lead at halftime with the SMSU bleachers filled to near their capacity of 3,400.

The Patriots got the gap down to six points early in the closing half, but MACCRAY posted three straight baskets for a 45-33 lead. The South champs only got as close as eight after that.

Junior center Brady Boike, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, said the high stakes and the big crowd made it hard to find his groove.

"I was real nervous," he said. "I didn't want to mess up. I didn't relax until the second half."

Riley Aeikens, another 6-4 junior, handed out seven assists to go along with 10 points. Corey Abbas, a junior at the point, supplied 12 points, five assists and four steals, and Taylor Thissen added nine points off the bench.

Abbas helped trigger the Wolverines' first significant run of the game.

"They played a little off me and that created opportunities," said Abbas. "If the guy came up (when I drove), I could dish off to Seth or Brady. We tried to set screens for both of them."

The Patriots (23-7) couldn't match the Wolverines' tall front line. They had few second chances with just six offensive rebounds.

Senior guard Karic Wiertzema had another strong playoff game, getting 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Center Seth Nuffer added 13 points and guard Cory Tilstra meshed four 3-pointers for his 12 points.

"This (title) means everything," said Hinrichs who has 20 double-doubles this season. "We've wanted this ever since we started playing basketball. "Hopefully, we'll do just as well at state."

MACCRAY 70, Hills-BC 61

Hills-BC (23-7) 28 33 -- 61

MACCRAY (26-3) 36 34 -- 70

HILLS-BEAVER CREEK - 23-46 FG (5-9 3-pt); 10-11 FT; 23 rebounds; 18 fouls ... Scoring: Karic Wiertzema 22, Cory Tilstra 12, Jeff Sandbulte 5, Travis Helgeson 9, Seth Nuffer 13 ... 3-point shots: Tilstra 4, Sandbulte 1 ... Rebound leaders: Wiertzema 8, Nuffer 8 ... Assist leaders: Wiertzema 8 ... Steal leaders: Wiertzema 2

MACCRAY - 25-52 FG (2-8 3-pt); 18-22 FT; 28 rebounds; 9 fouls ... Scoring: Corey Abbas 12, Jamie Boonstra 3, Riley Aeikens 10, Brady Boike 14, Seth Hinrichs 22, Taylor Thissen 9 ... 3-point shots: Boonstra 1, Hinrichs 1 ... Rebound leaders: Hinrichs 13, Boike 10 ... Assist leaders: Hinrichs 4, Aeikens 7, Abbas 5 ... Steal leaders: Boike 2, Hinrichs 2

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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