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Boys Basketball: Will is key for playoff teams

BBE's Billy Borgerding looks for a passing lane while Battle Lake defender Dan Marso has other ideas during the Jaguars' 64-60 win over the Battlers in the Section 6A South Sub-Section title game Tuesday at the University of Minnesota, Morris. Tribune photo by Tom Larson.

Now is the time in tournament basketball when talent stands side-by-side with want-to.

By the time section finals roll around, every team still alive has skilled, clutch players. The ones which move on to the state tournament very often have an extra measure of desire.

Three area teams -- Litchfield, Dawson-Boyd and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa -- play section finals today and Friday, and all three teams have displayed the will necessary to take them to next week's Minnesota State Tournament.

"Any time this deep in the season, any win is a good win, but we played exceptionally well," said Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson of his team's 16-point win over rival MACCRAY on Saturday in the Section 3A North Sub-Section final. The Blackjacks (26-2) play Southwest Minnesota Christian (25-1) for the Section 3A title at 8 p.m. today at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall.

"(Against MACCRAY), we did a good job of not letting them get into any rhythm offensively."

Litchfield did much the same against Benson in the Section 6AA South Sub-Section final on Tuesday, jumping out quickly and never letting the Braves get anything into synch. But the Dragons, however, have proven just as adept at starting slow and recovering their stride, said head coach John Carlson.

"The goal is goal is to get up quick if you can, but that doesn't always happen," said Carlson, whose Dragons (23-5) play Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (25-2) for the Section 6AA championship at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at St. Cloud State's Halenbeck Hall. "We've also had games where we got behind early and had to come back. It's been a strange season that way."

BBE provided a great example of the will to win in its 64-60 win over Battle Lake on Tuesday.

The Jaguars were up 17 at halftime, and despite a Battlers' run that took the lead under 10 in the second half, BBE pumped the lead back up to 17 with fewer than six minutes to play.

And suddenly that lead was all but gone. A critical moment came under a minute to play when, trailing BBE 61-55, Battle Lake's Petric VanErp hit a 3-pointer while at the same time teammate Zachary Wilkie was fouled under the basket. The 3-pointer counted, Wilkie hit both foul shots and the potentially momentum-changing five-point play made it 61-60 BBE.

The Jaguars, 29-0 and rarely challenge all season, didn't freak out and fold. And Battle Lake didn't score again. Brian Goodwin made three key free throws and the Jaguars made two solid defensive stops.

"We got the lead back up to 17 points and I was thinking we had it under control again," said BBE coach Dave Montbriand, who team plays Ada-Borup (22-5) in the Section 6A championship game at 7 p.m. Friday at Concordia in Moorhead. "Then they came back, then we tried to work some clock and that didn't go very well. But the team hung in there and made plays at a time when we were not very good offensively."

Tom Larson

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

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