Cardinals reach third straight 3AA title game
MARSHALL -- Playing solid team defense Saturday evening, the tournament-ready Luverne Cardinals won their third consecutive Section 3AA South boys' basketball championship, defeating Southwest Conference rival Redwood Valley 52-47 at the R/A facility at Southwest Minnesota State University.
After losing twice to RV during the conference schedule, the third time was the charm for LHS as the second-seeded Cardinals opened up the defensive-oriented contest with a 10-2 run over a seven-minute stretch late in the second half.
Holding a 34-32 advantage with 8:42 to play in the game, Luverne's Andrew DeBoer converted a lob pass from Marc Boelman, pushing the lead to four. After several defensive stops by each team, Derek Boeve scored four unanswered points over a 16-second stretch and with 4:13 left, the LHS lead was 40-32.
Redwood Valley's David Bonebright (14 points, 10 rebounds) responded with a pair of free throws at the 2:58 mark, trimming Luverne's lead to six. But a well-executed inbounds play by LHS (Weston Sawtelle scoring off a bounce pass from Jake Clark) pushed the advantage to 42-34 with 2:05 showing on the clock.
Twenty-two seconds later, Boelman (12 rebounds, nine points, three steals, two assists, one block) sank a pair of free throws, capping the 10-2 Luverne run, extending the lead to 44-34.
Redwood Valley (23-4) rallied behind the penetrating and long-range shooting of sophomore guard Mike Felt, but never came closer than five points.
"Luverne's defense was great the whole game." said Redwood Valley head coach Kelly Raymond. "Once they got ahead, it was even more difficult because nobody in our conference is better at playing with the lead than Luverne is."
After Felt, who finished with 20 points, hit a driving basket to close the score to 44-36 with 1:32 to play, Sawtelle (eight points, seven rebounds, two steals, two assists) scored on an offensive rebound to lift Luverne's lead back to 10 with 1:04 to go.
A three-point play by Tyler Pendleton and another basket by Felt trimmed the gap to five (46-41) with 42 seconds left, but DeBoer -- who had made just 1-of-4 from the line -- drained a pair of free throws, giving LHS a seven-point lead.
"I made two free throws at the end of the game to force overtime the last time we played Redwood," said DeBoer, who had the challenging defensive assignment of guarding the 6-foot-5 Bonebright, who is three inches taller. "I just stayed low, moved my feet, tried to use my muscles, worked to keep him from going right, and relied on help from my teammates."
"Andrew did a great job on Bonebright," said LHS head coach Tom Rops. "Our team defense was outstanding. Sawtelle's overall job on Felt and Clark's pressure on Pendleton were big keys, too."
Boeve, who finished with seven rebounds and a game-high 22 points, stretched the Cardinal lead back to 10 (51-41) by sinking his 10th straight free throw of the game, and later added another from the line to offset a pair of long 3-pointers by Felt in the closing seconds.
"Our team defense was awesome. Everyone worked hard," said Boeve, who scored 15 timely points in the second half. "The experience of playing on this court, in this game, last year helped."
The first half was closely-contested throughout. A steal and a layup by DeBoer (nine points, seven rebounds) and a jumper by Clark had given Luverne a 12-8 lead at the 11:35 mark. After neither team scored for over three minutes, Redwood Valley began chipping away at the lead, eventually knotting the contest at 20-all on back-to-back 3-pointers by Felt.
A pull-up jumper by Felt gave RV a 23-22 lead early in the second half, but Luverne regained the lead on a pair of free throws by Boeve (who finished 11-of-13 at the line) and took a four-point edge (27-23) when Boeve completed a three-point play -- after rebounding his own miss -- with 15:37 showing on the clock.
A nice inside move by Boelman helped LHS stay ahead (30-27) and 30 seconds later, Boeve's shot high off the glass -- with 13:30 to play -- put the Cardinals up, 32-29.
DeBoer scored inside off a feed from Clark, lifting LHS to a 34-30 advantage with 10:22 to play, but 10 seconds later, Bonebright answered, cutting the margin to two.
Neither team scored for several possessions, but Boelman's lob into DeBoer triggered Luverne's lead-stretching 10-2 run.
"We had a strong finish," concluded Rops. "We took advantage of some breaks that went our way and our seniors showed tremendous leadership in a pressure-packed game. Team defense and strong rebounding, on both ends, were the result of great efforts by our kids."
Luverne (19-7) plays Benson (20-9) for the third straight time in the sectional finals at Marshall Thursday. Benson won a thriller (83-82) over West Central to claim the 3AA North title Saturday.
Luverne 22 30 -- 52
RV 21 26 -- 47
Luverne (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Clark 0-2-0-4, Boelman 0-4-1-9, Sawtelle 0-3-2-8, Boeve 1-4-11-22, DeBoer 0-3-3-9. Totals: 1-15-19-52.
RV (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Pendleton 0-2-3-7, Zimmermann 0-1-0-2, Bonebright 0-5-4-14, Felt 4-4-0-20, Marks 0-1-2-4. Totals: 4-13-9-47.