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Luverne finishes in fourth

ST. PAUL -- Scoring in bunches and in a variety of ways, the sixth-ranked Pequot Lakes Patriots dominated the first half and held off a trio of gallant Luverne rallies after intermission, as the Section 7AA champs earned the Class AA state boys' basketball tournament third-place trophy Saturday, defeating the Cardinals 67-52 at Concordia University's Gangelhoff Center.

Showing why and how they have been ranked among the state's top 10 teams most of the season, the Patriots (29-3) moved the ball well and scored 12 unanswered points in less than three minutes, earning a 16-3 lead with 12:50 to go in the first half.

"We got off a to great start and built a big lead," said Patriot head coach Garry Grewe. "We have a nice, balanced team, and we played well in all phases of the game in the first half."

Utilizing effective ball movement, slicing penetrations, deadly perimeter shooting and a strong inside game, Pequot Lakes scored frequently in the game's opening 10 minutes, building a 25-11 lead with 7:32 showing on the clock.

"They are big, fast and can shoot," said Luverne head coach Tom Rops about the awesome Pequot Lakes start. "We helped them some by turning the ball over and missing a lot of free throws, but give them credit for playing at a high level on both offense and defense."

Luverne (21-9), playing its third game in as many days, had 12 turnovers in the first half and went 8-for-18 at the free-throw line.

Patriot Tucker Sheley, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, came up with six steals for Pequot Lakes in the first half, tallying a team-high 12 points.

Sheley and 6-foot-9 senior Jesse Fisher (13 points) -- who made the all-tournament team -- had plenty of support as eight Patriots scored in the first half.

Luverne, after falling behind by the initial 13 points, battled back and began scoring -- but could not mount any consistent offense in the game's first 18 minutes.

The Patriot lead grew to margins of 30-12 and 35-13 before the Cardinals trimmed the halftime score to 39-16.

A bright spot for Luverne in the first half was the play of junior reserves Jeremy Hoff, Kyle Heronimus and Erik Stegemann, who combined for seven points and showed plenty of hustle.

"Those three guys each played with a lot of energy," said Rops.

Three times, Luverne appeared to be gearing up for a second-half rally, but each time, the Patriots stepped up with solid plays and cooled the Cardinal spurt.

"I thought that Luverne adjusted well and played much better in the second half," said Grewe. "They have a good ball club."

After falling behind 45-18, the Cardinals went on an 8-0 run -- capped by a rebound basket by Andrew DeBoer (eight points, four rebounds) -- that made the score 45-26 with 14:09 to play in the game.

Later, Luverne rallied again -- sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers by Derek Boeve (23 points, nine rebounds) to trim the Patriot lead to 52-35 with eight minutes remaining.

"It was too little, too late," said Rops, who was pleased with how the Cardinals responded in the second half. "We made some adjustments and became more aggressive, putting together several goods runs."

Boeve scored on a third-effort putback and made a nice move in the lane to cut the lead to 15 (58-43) with 4:10 showing, but the Cardinals never got closer.

Cardinal highlights in the closing minute included a block by Zach Clark, a 3-pointer by freshman Trevor Stoffel and two stellar plays by Matt Kreuch, who claimed a defensive rebound and forced a Patriot turnover.

Both Boeve (52 points for the tournament) and DeBoer (24) were selected to the 10-member Class AA all-tournament team.

Luverne 16 36 -- 52

Pequot Lakes 39 28 -- 67

Luverne (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Boelman 0-1-2-4, Sawtelle 0-2-1-5, Boeve 3-4-6-23, DeBoer 0-3-2-8, Stoffel 1-0-0-3, Hoff 0-2-1-5, Stegemann 0-0-2-2, Heronimus 0-1-0-2. Totals: 4-13-14-52.

Pequot Lakes (3FG-2FG-FT-TP): Sheley 1-4-5-16, Fisher 0-6-1-13, Greer 0-4-6-14, Hilts 1-2-1-8, Parker 0-2-0-4, Cogan 0-0-3-3, Liedl 0-2-0-4, Howard 0-1-0-2, Bartella 0-1-1-3. Totals: 2-22-17-67.