Jaguars top MACCRAY to advance to title game
MINNEAPOLIS -- If you're going to make a trip for the first time, you might as well take in all the sites.
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa had never been to a state tournament before this season. And the unbeaten and top-ranked Jaguars are making the most of it. After a quick tour through the quarterfinals, the Jaguars polished off MACCRAY 82-69 in the semifinals on Friday at Target Center.
That earned the Jaguars (32-0) a trip into today's championship against Springfield (25-3) at noon at Target Center. BBE is bidding to become only the third Class A team to go unbeaten for the entire season. Litchfield is the last area team to accomplish that feat, going 30-0 in 2000 in Class AA.
"Finishing the season unbeaten would be nice," said BBE senior guard Kevin Kuefler. who led all scorers with 27 points. "But winning the championship is the most important thing. I don't think it would matter to us if we won it with 10 losses or with none."
MACCRAY (27-4) will face Chisholm (28-4) in the third-place game at 10 a.m. today at Concordia University in St. Paul.
BBE and MACCRAY had never met before despite the high schools in Belgrade and Clara City being only 45 miles apart. BBE became a consolidation in 1988 and MACCRAY formed in 1989.
BBE had been destroying every postseason foe this season, winning by an average of 27 points per game. But MACCRAY came out looking like it would throw a road block in front of the Jaguars' steamroller.
With the game tied 8-8, the Wolverines went on an 11-0 run for a 19-8 lead with 11:23 left in first half. And with BBE senior forward Brady Koehler, the team's third-leading scorer this season, being called for his third foul, the general perception was that BBE's state trip might take a turn to St. Paul for the third-place game.
Koehler was relegated to the bench for the final 11:23 of the half, but his teammates picked up the slack and went on a 25-3 run and never looked back.
"Every player can kind of see when the momentum is slipping away," explained Kuefler. "The crowd really gets into it. There was a timeout and we just talked about getting the momentum back and everyone doing their job. I think everyone stepped up with Brady out. Brian (Goodwin), especially, did a great job handling the ball and getting it to the open players."
Goodwin, a freshman point guard, handled the pressure like a four-year starter. He hit from the outside, scored on drives to the basket and dished off when he was in trouble. He finished with 16 points, five assists and four rebounds. And he had only one turnover.
"He sure didn't play like a freshman at all," said Kuefler.
MACCRAY was able to jump out early with precision passing and several inside buckets. Brady Boike had eight of the Wolverines' first 14 points to fuel the early surge.
"I was a little nervous ... a little scared when we went down by 11 right away," admitted BBE coach Dave Montbriand. "But this team has so much poise. Once we got our defense going, got some turnovers and a few baskets fell, we found our rhythm."
The Jaguars didn't panic and relied on their trapping defense that has sparked runs all season long. Trailing 19-14, BBE's Connor Goodwin scored three straight baskets to move the Jaguars back into the lead, 20-19, with 7:51 left in the first half.
"We got off to a good start, but with BBE's talent, they're not going to let that go on very long," said MACCRAY coach Nelson. "And they just said 'Enough of this.' They stepped up and we didn't answer."
Seth Hinrichs, who had 11 of his 23 points in the first half, scored on a drive to the basket, was fouled, and completed the three-point play to boost MACCRAY back in front, 22-20. BBE freshman center Billy Borgerding then scored his only basket of the game to give BBE the lead for good at 6:41. That sparked an 11-0 run that blew the game open.
"(BBE) had a lock-down defense. They double up on you in the corners out of that 1-3-1 defense," said MACCRAY senior guard Jamie Boonstra. "We should have fought through it, but defense wins games and we didn't have our best defense today."
In the second half, junior guard Riley Aeikens got the MACCRAY delegation back into the game when he snapped the cords with a pair of three-pointers to whittle the BBE lead to 45-37. But the Jaguars responded with a 9-0 run with Brady Koehler leading the way with a pair of baskets.
"We stepped up with some threes in the second half," said Nelson, "But the turnovers and our defense had put us in too big of a hole."
Kuefler took a seat on the bench for the final 3:23 of the game with leg cramps.
"No big deal," said Kuefler. "It happened in the first game, too. I just need to take more fluids before the game, I guess."
Or maybe he ran out of fluids because his motor was running at high speed the whole game. The 6-foot-4 senior guard scored 20 of his 27 points in the first half, including nine during the first-half run. He also finished with six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
"We didn't have an answer for Kevin," said Hinrichs. "If we went one-on-one he would get a foul or layup. If we doubled up, he'd dish off."
MACCRAY never was able to make a dent in the Jaguars' armor after that. The Wolverines were hurt severely by turnovers, finishing with 23 to only 10 for BBE.
"(BBE) played great defense," said Hinrichs, who will play for Division I Lafayette University in Pennsylvania next season. "That 1-3-1 made it hard for us to execute the offense."
Connor Goodwin finished with 19 points and nine rebounds for the Jaguars, playing a solid all-around game. Brady Koehler added 13 points, Kirby Montbriand five, Brent Koehler three, Borgerding two and James Kuefler one.
The Jaguars shot a blistering 57 percent from the floor (33-for-58) and cashed 19-of-28 free throws (68 percent).
Boike finished with 17 points and nine rebounds for the Wolverines. Aeikens added 11 points and six rebounds. Boonstra added six points, Corey Abbas five, Jarrod Holmgren four and Taylor Thissen three.
For BBE, it's one more stop on its journey. And one more step to the top.
Rand Middleton contributed to this story.
BBE 86, MACCRAY 69
BBE (32-0) 41 45 -- 86
MACCRAY (27-4) 29 40 -- 69
BELGRADE-BROOTEN-ELROSA - 33-58 FG (1-6 3-pt); 19-28 FT; 29 rebounds; 16 fouls ... Scoring (FG-FT-PTS): Brian Goodwin 6-11 3-5 16, Kevin Kuefler 10-15 7-9 27, Brent Koehler 1-2 1-1 3, Brady Koehler 6-12 1-2 13, Connor Goodwin 8-10 3-4 19, Casey Murdock 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Imdieke 0-0 0-0 0, Steven Doll 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Wosmek 0-0 0-0 0, James Kuefler 0-1 1-2 1, Adam Heinze 0-0 0-0 0, Kirby Montbriand 1-6 3-5 5, Billy Borgerding 1-1 0-0 2 ... 3-point shots: B. Goodwin 1-4, Brent Koehler 0-1, Montbriand 0-1 ... Rebound leaders: C. Goodwin 9, K. Kuefler 6 ... Assist leaders: B. Goodwin 5, K. Kuefler 5, Brent Koehler 5 ... Steal leaders: K. Kuefler 3
MACCRAY - 25-60 FG (8-31 3-pt); 11-14 FT; 35 rebounds; 24 fouls ... Scoring (FG-FT-PTS): Corey Abbas 1-9 2-2 5, Jamie Boonstra 2-4 1-1 6, Riley Aeikens 3-11 2-2 11, Brady Boike 8-12 1-3 17, Seth Hinrichs 9-18 4-4 23, Levi Koenen 0-0 0-0 0, Jarrod Holmgren 1-2 1-2 4, Cody Boonstra 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Wrede 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Thissen 1-4 0-0 3, Bailey Boike 0-0 0-0 0, DJ VanKlompenburg 0-0 0-0 0 ... 3-point shots: Aeikens 3-9, Holmgren 1-2, J. Boonstra 1-3, Thissen 1-3, Abbas 1-7, Hinrichs 1-7 ... Rebound leaders: Brady Boike 9, Hinrichs 9, Aeikens 6 ... Assist leaders: Aeikens 2, Hinrichs 2 ... Steal leaders: J. Boonstra 1