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Boys basketball: Dragons soar into semifinals

Litchfield's Jon Terning goes airborne toward the basket during the Dragons' 51-40 victory over Watertown-Mayer on Wednesday at Target Center in Minneapolis. Litchfield will face Perham in the Class AA semifinals on Friday.1 / 2
Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Litchfield's Zach Kinny guards Watertown-Mayer's Nate Kratch during the Dragons' 51-40 victory over the Royals on Wednesday at Target Center in Minneapolis.2 / 2

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Royals couldn't buy a basket and the Dragons capitalized in the opening moments of a Class AA quarterfinal between No. 4-seed Litchfield and Watertown-Mayer Wednesday night at the Target Center.

Litchfield went on an 11-2 run seven minutes into the game and turned 21 Watertown-Mayer turnovers into 19 points en route to upending the Royals 51-40 to reach the semifinals.

Litchfield (25-5) will meet the tourney's No. 1 seed, Perham (28-2), in the first semifinal tilt Friday at 6 p.m. back at Target Center. Perham rallied to upend Worthington 51-47 to kick off the evening session Wednesday.

Jon Terning -- behind an 8-for-9 showing at the free throw line -- and Zach Kinny both scored 14 points for Litchfield, which led 20-8 at halftime and went to the foul line 19 more times than the Royals. The 12-point differential at the charity stripe was instrumental in the Dragons beating Watertown-Mayer (28-3) for the second time this season. The Royals entered the game on a 14-game winning streak.

Another ingredient for Litchfield's eighth straight win was its defense. The Dragons limited Watertown-Mayer to three field goals in the first half and surrendered only three 3-pointers to a team that was shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 66 ppg.

"We played hard defense," said Litchfield senior forward Mitch Wollin, who added nine points and five rebounds. "We wanted to limit their 3-point shooters because they can really hurt you and we had to shut down (Nate) Kratch. We were tough, aggressive and just suffocated their shooters in the first half."

Kratch, the Royals' leading scorer averaging 19 ppg, had just two points in the first half before scoring 16 in the second half.

After two buckets from Kinny and a Zach Whitchurch three-pointer 1:25 into the second half that extended Litchfield's lead to 27-8, Watertown-Mayer went on a 16-5 run over a 10-minute span to get within eight at 32-24. Litchfield was just 2-for-9 from the field and committed six of its 13 turnovers in that stretch.

"Our offense needs to be better Friday if we want to advance," said Litchfield coach John Carlson. "Our defense was really solid, which has been our staple the last 2½ weeks."

Kinny, a junior captain, who gave up four inches guarding the 6-foot-6 Kratch said nothing special was implemented at the Target Center. Kratch's father, Bob, played eight seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants and New England Patriots as a guard/tight end.

"Our main goal was to stop Kratch and guard their shooters because Kratch is really good at dishing off," said the 6-2 forward. "We obviously have to play better offensively. They did guard our shooters well."

The Royals did pull within six at 41-35 with 1:48 left, but four free throws from Terning, a senior guard, and a couple more from Kinny down the stretch sealed the win.

The Dragons played on Timberwolves' home floor on Jan. 28, beating Morris/Chokio-Alberta 45-37.

"We were used to the floor. I think that really helped us," said Kinny, who also had eight rebounds.

The late semifinal Friday will feature unseeded Plainview-Elgin-Millville (25-6) and No. 3 Braham (30-1). PEM upset No. 2 St. Peter 69-65 and Braham went on a 7-0 run over the final 23 seconds to stun St. Croix Lutheran 81-78.

Litchfield 51, W-M 40

Watertown-Mayer (28-3) 8 32 -- 40

Litchfield (25-5) 20 31 -- 51

WATERTOWN-MAYER - 16-37 FG (3-13 3-pt); 5-8 FT; 28 rebounds; 24 fouls ... Scoring: Matt Schreder 2-4 0-0 5, Trevor Weinmann 2-7 2-3 6, Dustin Thomas 1-1 0-0 2, Alex Runck 2-6 1-3 6, Nate Kratch 8-16 2-2 18, Jacob Wandersee 1-3 0-0 3 ... 3-point shots: Schreder 1-2, Runck 1-4, Wandersee 1-3 ... Rebound leaders: Kratch 12, Schreder 4, Weinmann 4 ... Assist leaders: Kratch 2 ... Steal leaders: Weinmann 2, Kratch 2 ... Blocks: Kratch 2

LITCHFIELD - 15-38 FG (4-13 3-pt); 17-27 FT; 25 rebounds; 13 fouls ... Scoring: Jon Terning 3-9 8-9 14, Zach Kinny 5-8 3-7 14, Zach Whitchurch 1-6 0-0 3, Mitch Wollin 3-5 3-6 9, Dylan Koll 2-6 2-3 7, Tyler Larson 1-2 0-0 3, Riley Pater 0-2 1-2 1 ... 3-point shots: Kinny 1-3, Whitchurch 1-5, Koll 1-1, Larson 1-2 ... Rebound leaders: Kinny 8, Wollin 5, Koll 5 ... Assist leaders: Kinny 3 ... Steal leaders: Terning 3, Koll 3, Kinny 2, Whitchurch 2