If you are a fan of high school basketball, then there wasn't a better place to be than St. Cloud on Saturday.
Six postseason games were played at St. Cloud State University, and several others took place down the road at St. John's University.
Orono defeats Delano
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Orono defeated Delano 74-52 in a section 5AAA semifinal led by the seven three-point makes (in eight attempts) and 30 points from Jordan Smith. It was hard to not be overly impressed with how the Spartans played together, especially their ball and player movement on the offensive end where they looked as crisp as ever.
At the 13-minute mark of the second half, Texas-Pan Am-signed Mike Yahnke was whistled for a bogus fourth foul as the baseline official called him for extending his arm in the post. At that point, the Orono lead was single digits as Yahnke kept his team in the game with 19 points in the paint over constant double teams. But when Mike went to the bench, Orono began to shine brighter.
The Spartans had already used great movement to free up Smith for shots all game long. Then, after Yahnke left the game, Orono's defense turned up the pressure and looked like the Runnin Rebs or the Fab 5 (those documentaries were great) pushing the ball after Tiger mistakes time and time again.
Orono was forced to insert Yahnke again, and he quickly picked up a fifth foul with 11 minutes to go (nobody in the gym saw the foul save one referee). From there, Orono spaced the floor and picked their opponent apart.
Smith and Yahnke both looked like the standouts they are as Smith not only knocked down trey after trey but he was as aggressive as I've seen. Carleton is rumored to have a good shot at Smith, and they were in the stands following Jordan closely.
Inside Yahnke caught whenever he wanted to despite extra attention defensive attention. The length Jeremy Borg was an obstacle but Yahnke's ability to create space with both his footwork and his hips allowed him to score 19 points in about 19 minutes time. He also had seven boards, but it was a shame to see his career end the way it did as the fourth whistle changed the game and was a garbage call.
St. Cloud Apollo got the monkey off their back in a big way Saturday, defeating Little Falls (who beat them the last three years in section final games with buzzer beaters) 83-56. U of Mary-signee Blake Maslonkowski was purely unstoppable in the paint - scoring 22 points and controlling the glass with 11 rebounds. "Maz" cleared every rebound with two strong arms grabbing at the rim and coming down aggressively securing the ball.
In a losing effort, Bemidji's Ryan Rude battled as hard as any player on Saturday, scoring 18 points with six rebounds and five assists. In a game that had many loose balls and tipped out boards, it seemed like Rude fought his way to the ball every time. He also made four treys and took the ball to the rim aggressively, completing plays after strong jumpstops. UW-River Falls had a pair of coaches in the building watching him.
Rogers' 6-foot-4 senior wing Trevor Berkley scored 11 points early and eventually matched that total with 11 boards. His activity was easily the most impressive part of his team's 71-44 win over Big Lake. Berkley played with a fire starting at the tip-off and his fuel never ran out.
Future Texas-Pan Am point guard Jayme Moten almost saw his dream of another state tournament appearance get away from him, but teammate Brandon Zylstra's buzzer beater tied the game with Pierz and sent the contest into overtime. From there the slippery Jayme Moten controlled the action, scoring 22 points for the game and teammate Aaron Ruter sealed the deal with free throws. Moten and New London-Spicer move on.
Six-foor-8 junior Michael Schreiber produced 15 points and eight boards for Rogers in their win over Big Lake. Schreiber easily drop-stopped, absorbed contact, and finished against Big Lake's small frontline completing plays as expected. The big man has work to do but colleges took note of this game and will watch closer.
Michael Stephens came out on the losing end, but he earned respect for his first half. The 5-foot-9 Hornet guard consistently worked his way to the paint against a quality guard in R.J. Dean for 15 points, plus Mike's defensive pressure was eye-opening. There are a ton of schools at the next level in Minnesota who could use his level of ball pressure.
Melrose power forward Austin Van Beck dominated the paint as Melrose beat Sauk Centre 72-60. Van Beck put up 27 points with a dozen boards and his Melrose teammates threw a 1-3-1 halfcourt zone that still has Sauk Centre puzzled.
St. Cloud Apollo's Ryan Tesch had a career game putting up 18 points and nine rebounds. Tesch had a seven point run himself in the second half that put the game away. Also, Derek Steve kept his hot shooting streak going as he scored 20 points with six boards and five assists. Steve had a good February and is having a great March.
Detroit Lakes defeated Bemidji 68-65 in one of the best games of the day. Senior forward Josh Stalberger used his strong athletic body to drop in lay-ups at the front of the rim constantly including the go ahead bucket 66 to 65. He had 19 points and seven boards.
Joe Mollberg had a rough day shooting but hit some late treys (15 points total) and had the game clinching steal followed by two free throws. Also clutch was Rick Hutchinson whose two late three-pointers were vital to the Detroit Lakes victory.
Junior standout Carey Woods didn't shoot a high percentage but still scored 23 points with 13 rebounds.