Champs again

MINNEAPOLIS -- No. 1 at the start of the tournament and No. 1 at the end. The New London-Spicer Wildcats (32-2) capped a season as the top dog by overpowering Crosby-Ironton 62-52 in the Class AA championship game at Target Center on Saturday aft...

Smooth drive
New London-Spicer's Erik Tengwall drives the baseline for a layup over Sam Baker, center, of Crosby-Ironton as Aaron Johnson of the Wildcats positions for a possible rebound Saturday at Target Center. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

MINNEAPOLIS -- No. 1 at the start of the tournament and No. 1 at the end.

The New London-Spicer Wildcats (32-2) capped a season as the top dog by overpowering Crosby-Ironton 62-52 in the Class AA championship game at Target Center on Saturday afternoon.

It's the second state basketball title in three years for NLS and head coach Matt Cordes. NLS was ranked No. 1 for the final eight weeks of the regular season. The 2008 championship was also settled between the Wildcats and the Rangers.

"This is wonderful," said senior Erik Tengwall, who was also on the varsity as a sophomore. "Any state championship is great, but to do it now with your close friends since the fourth grade is an unbelievable feeling."

Even rarer than two titles in three years is a basketball title following a football championship in the fall. The only other area team to accomplish that feat was Bird Island-Lake Lillian in both 1980 and '81. Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg coupled football and wrestling titles in 2008-2009.


Jayme Moten, who quarterbacked the fourth-quarter comeback in November that upset Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Prep Bowl, is at his best at crunch time.

The Rangers, who trailed 34-22 at halftime rallied to pull within two points of the lead, 49-47, with three minutes left on a jump shot by third-year Rangers' starter Mark Hoge, who would lead all scorers with 27 points.

What appeared a sure NLS victory suddenly looked in jeopardy. Perhaps after going 0-and-4 in state finals, fate was siding with the Rangers.

Moten took a pass from Aaron Jenny at the top of the key, aimed and laced a three-pointer, his fifth of the game. Aaron Johnson, on a feed from Moten, followed with a layup and a 54-47 lead.

Tengwall drained 6-of-6 free throws and Moten two more as NLS went 8-for-8 at the line the last 50 seconds.

Moten's trey drew the most explosive response of the contest from fans.

"I was a little frustrated the first two games," said Moten, who was 4-of-13 shooting combined for 11 points in the first two games. "I'd been thinking when I shot 'Don't miss' but Ben Donner (the team's volunteer chiropractor) told me to be positive and say 'Make it!' "

It worked. Moten made 5-of-10 three-pointers for his team-leading 19 points.


Tengwall added 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Johnson got 11 points to go with eight rebounds, Jenny eight points and five rebounds. Justin Zylstra, who had 22 points in the semifinals, pulled back to four points and four rebounds.

"We knew they would pressure the ball and make a run," said Tengwall. "It got a little scary when we went from up by 12 to just two and their crowd was really into it."

So someone had to step up.

"That's why this is a great team," said Moten. "In the first game it was Jenny (27 points), and then Justin last night and today it was Erik, Moose (Johnson) and I."

The Wildcats' physical superiority showed in a 36-20 advantage in rebounds. The Rangers got only two offensive rebounds.

"We knew that was going to be a problem," said Rangers' coach Galovich. "It's not just height, but we don't have a starter that weighs over 170 pounds. "You try and compensate by applying ball pressure and shooting well. (Moten's) shot was big and we couldn't get them to crack at the free-throw line."

Both teams shot 46 percent overall from the field, but the Rangers were just 1-of-12 on three-pointers.

Zylstra, Johnson, Moten and Tengwall each made the 10-player all-tourney team. Jenny's three-game statistics were just as strong, but his biggest game came at Williams Arena which fewer of the voting media witnessed.


It was the 20th state tournament trip for Crosby-Ironton (29-3) and fifth runner-up finish. The Rangers didn't have an easy path at the state tournament, but beat No. 8 Minnehaha Academy in the quarterfinals and then No. 2 Plainview-Elgin-Millville in the semifinals.

New London-Spicer 62,

Crosby-Ironton 52

Crosby-Ironton (29-3) 22 30 -- 52

New London-Spicer(32-2) 34 28 -- 62

CROSBY-IRONTON - 21-45 FG (1-12 3-pt); 9-14 FT; 20 rebounds; 17 fouls ... Scoring: Matt Hudrlik 6, Tyler Dickie 2, Mark Hoge 27, Sam Baker 10, Brock Tesdahl 2, Mike Hoge 2... 3-point shots: Mark H ... Rebound leaders: Mark Hoge 8 ... Assist leaders: Mark Hoge 5 ... Steal leaders: Hudrlik 1, Dickie 1, Hoge 1

NEW LONDON-SPICER - 23-49 FG (6-19 3-pt); 10-16 FT; 36 rebounds; 13 fouls ... Scoring: Jayme Moten 19, Erik Tengwall 16, Aaron Jenny 8, Justin Zylstra 4, Aaron Johnson 11, Brandon Zylstra 1, Jake Essler 3 ... 3-point shots: Moten 5, Essler 1 ... Rebound leaders: Tengwall 8, Johnson 8, Jenny 5 ... Assist leaders: Tengwall 7 ... Steal leaders: Tengwall 1, J. Zylstra 1

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