Lakers edge Wildcats
For the second time in as many games, the Minnewaska Lakers overcame a lengthy deficit to turn the tables and snatch a playoff victory with a 68-66 victory over New London-Spicer Saturday night at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
The Lakers held the game's first lead with a Jackson Johnsrud layup in the first play of the game, only to cede the lead to the hot-start Wildcats for the following 30-plus minutes of game time. The Lakers, however, found a way to spoil a 35-point performance from New London-Spicer's Brandon Adelman to advance to the Section 3AA championship against Pipestone.
Adelman found stretches of metaphorical unconsciousness with a combination of impressive 3-point shooting and efficient floaters in the lane to rack up the points as he's done a number of times this season. It was Minnewaska's dribble-drive, however, that proved to be the deciding factor.
"To be honest, we've gotten away from our offensive philosophy recently," said Minnewaska head coach Phil Johnsrud, who helped guide his team to a come-from-behind 58-51 overtime victory against Morris/CA on Thursday. "We've had to go back to a lot of dribble-drive and kicking it out to get some points. It's the same thing that happened the other night, these guys just kept fighting. I knew they weren't going to give up."
Minnewaska could have done just that when the Wildcats stormed out to a quick 26-9 lead in the opening half. Johnsrud's offensive change, however, debuted late in the first period to help the Lakers get back in the game and close the distance to a 31-25 halftime lead.
NLS maintained the lead throughout most of the second half by relying on a heavy dose of Adelman, who scored 20 of his points in the final frame, and Ander Arnold who ended the game with 14 points. Jackson Johnsrud and sophomore Grant Jensen stepped up for the Lakers, though, by providing efficient penetration and the occasional triple from deep. Jensen finished the night with 21 points, many of which came from the paint, and Johnsrud added 20 points with the deep threat.
"Grant Jensen had a monster game," Phil Johnsrud said. "And Jackson came back and had a huge second half for us. It's like I said the other night, we have a bunch of guys that can step up on any night for us. Everybody believes in this team. We can play a bunch of different strategies and that plays into our favor, too."
The game's first lead change since the opening minute came with 3:33 to play when Ryan Christianson snuck behind the defense to lay one in for a 60-59 Minnewaska lead. The Lakers added two more after a big defensive stop on the other end and Minnewaska never looked back.
"I think defensively we tightened up in the second half and really started to rebound well," Phil Johnsrud said. "I told our guys that if we could get some stops and start getting some boards then we would be able to get back in this thing and that's what they did."
Minnewaska's defense certainly improved but Adelman nevertheless had a monster night. He hit a deep 3-pointer to bring the game within two but, without any timeouts, New London-Spicer was unable to stop the clock as time expired before a Minnewaska in-bounds play.
"With a guy like that, you can't just double team him," Phil Johnsrud said. "He's a heck of a player. I think we made him earn his 35 points. Other than a few easy layups here and there, he was contested quite a bit, but it's just a credit to how well he played."
Jackson Johnsrud and Jensen proved to be the spoilers, though, as did the rest of the Lakers, to secure a spot in the Section 3AA final. They will take on Pipestone, the No. 2 seed from the South sub-section, who defeated Windom 78-53 prior to the Minnewaska-NLS bout in Marshall. The Section 3AA final is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. Thursday in Marshall.