STATE BASKETBALL: Area teams stick together at stateMINNEAPOLIS — The Southwest Christian boys’ basketball team walked into Williams Arena just after halftime of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin game Thursday afternoon.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Southwest Christian boys’ basketball team walked into Williams Arena just after halftime of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin game Thursday afternoon.
As Jamie Pap walked down the corridor leading to the Eagles’ locker room, he glanced over at ML/B-O head coach Shawn Naas, who was standing along the sidelines while watching his team play. Pap gave the fellow coach a quick thumbs up. Naas returned the gesture and the coaches continued doing their various tasks.
Minutes later, as time was expiring in the Wolverines’ 73-61 win over Browerville, Pap sat in a chair in the front row taking notes and watching with a slight smile on his face.
When the buzzer sounded, indicating ML/B-O was advancing to the Class A state semifinals, Naas didn’t run out onto the court or jump for joy. Instead, he turned toward Pap and pointed at the SWC head coach, indicating that it was his turn to lead a team to victory.
And that’s just what Pap did in the following game. The Eagles defeated Fosston 59-41 to secure a spot in the semifinals today as well, guaranteeing that two of the top-4 teams in Class A in 2012 will come from the Red Rock Conference.
“It’s awesome to be here with them, we’re cheering them on,” Pap said of ML/B-O. “Two Red Rock Conference teams in the state final, wow, that’d be great. It just says so much about our little Southwest corner of the state and how we play basketball down there. It’s a battle and it’s a fight every night. I think the section and the conference did a great job of preparing us for up here at the state tournament.”
Rivals during the regular season have turned into each other’s biggest fans during the state tournament.
Once dressed, the Eagles stood in the entrance of their corridor, watching anxiously as the Wolverines extended their lead over Browerville.
And an hour later, the ML/B-O boys’ sat in the stands rooting on SWC as the team routed Fosston.
And the athletes are quick to admit that one team’s success is a motivation to the other team.
In fact, the SWC athletes said watching the Wolverines secure a spot in the semifinals was the icing on the cake when it came to their own incentive to win their quarterfinal game.
“When you see another team having success you want to match that,” SWC senior Zach Huisken said. “I’m really happy for them. They’re in our conference so we know a lot about them and it’s great that they could get that win too. It’s big for them and our win was big for us.”
The two teams met only once during the regular season, SWC winning the contest 82-62 on Jan. 20.
Both teams have come a long way since then, finding themselves competing for a spot in the Class A championship Saturday.
SWC finished its conference season with a 17-0 record, ML/B-O 13-4. In a conference that consists of basketball powerhouses such as Ellsworth, Adrian, Southwest Star Concept, Red Rock Central, Hills-Beaver Creek and Murray County Central—coming out on top is quite the feat.
Naas has said numerous times this season that it is the Red Rock Conference that prepares teams for big tournaments like state because there are so many different styles and so many quality-level teams in that conference.
So having the RRC represented in each of the two semifinal games is definitely something to brag about. And there’s no doubt the Wolverines and Eagles will be keeping their fingers crossed that they will face each other Saturday in the state championship.
If both teams win today, they will face each other in the championship. If both teams lose their semifinal games, they will face each other in the third-place game. But if one wins and one loses, the two teams won’t face each other at all in the state tournament.
“I mean it’s the Red Rock Conference, how can you not cheer for them,” Naas said. “The reason we’re here is the Red Rock Conference. They put us through everything in that conference. We’re cheering for them and hoping they can extend it. Hopefully we’ll play them soon.”
Daily Globe Sports Reporter Jocelyn Syrstad can be reached at 376-7335.