MARSHALL - Central Minnesota Christian performed at a whole new level in the second half Thursday.
After a tight, back-and-forth opening half to the Section 3A title game, Murray County Central couldn’t do anything to stop a deadly long-range attack from the Bluejays. The Rebels were outscored 39-23 in the final 18 minutes and saw their season end one game short of the state tournament with a 72-54 loss at Southwest Minnesota State University.
“At halftime we looked at where they were attacking us and we found that they were getting open a lot on the high post,” MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk. “We were able to kind of shut that down but then they were lights-out from deep. They’re a very balanced team and they can just hit you from all angles.”
In a jam-packed and loud RA facility, it was CMC’s fans with the first opportunity to be heard.
Cole Bassett put in the first bucket of the game, but the Bluejays responded with an 11-2 run. Nine of those points came on 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc. Two of those treys were drained by Taylor Slagter, who also added an explosive one-handed dunk off of a steal that sent the CMC faithful into a frenzy.
The Rebels didn’t waiver. An old-fashioned three-point play by Grant Rohrer got them back in the scoring mix. That started an 11-3 MCC surge that culminated in another and-one for Rohrer, who also drilled a triple from the top of the key during that stretch. MCC went up by as many as two at 18-16 when Bassett banked it in from downtown with 11:25 in the first half.
“After they got out to that lead we changed what we were doing defensively and we were solid on the boards,” Bobeldyk said. “We were limiting them to only one or two shots per possession.”
That got the Rebel fans fired up. Still, their team couldn’t pull away.
The Bluejays eventually built their lead back to six at 29-23 with 5:22 on the clock, but MCC kept fighting. Two jumpers by Noah Lupkes and another by Bassett got the Rebels within two with less than two minutes before the break. Rohrer - who scored 15 points in the first half alone - dropped in a layup to tie it at 31-all with 30 seconds left.
CMC came back with a Tanner Stoel layup 19 seconds later. Rohrer got a good look from 3-point range at the buzzer, but caught front iron and the Rebels were down 33-31 after an entertaining first half.
Rohrer and Bassett combined for 24 of the Rebels’ 31 points in the opening frame.
“They’re the offensive leaders on this team,” Bobeldyk said. “A lot of what we do goes through them. In the second half, you could tell they were really trying to shut them down. They had four guys around Grant sometimes but we were still able to get some good looks.”
The Bluejays came out firing from distance again in the second half. Two triples for Matthew Van Eps and another by Stoel put them up 44-35 just five minutes, 10 seconds out of the break. Buckets by Bassett and Rohrer got the Rebels within one possession, down three, midway through the half.
That’s when CMC made its move.
A Stoel layup followed by another Van Eps trey stretched the MCC deficit to eight. That started an 18-1 Bluejays’ run that put it up 64-44. The Rebels went nearly six minutes without a field goal before Brad Schreiber drained a 3-pointer with 4:08 to play.
“They’re explosive and so balanced,” Bobeldyk said of the Bluejays. “That’s what makes them so hard to beat -- their balance. If you take one thing away from them, they’ll start hurting you with another.”
The Rebels never could recover after the massive run as the curtain closed on a stellar 2015-16 campaign in which they finished 24-6 with a Red Rock Conference title. They will graduate seven seniors.
“I just told the guys that they have nothing to put their heads down about,” Bobeldyk said. “They’ve done things this year that haven’t been done for a long time in this school district. That’s thanks to our senior leadership.”
Rohrer finished with a game-high 27 points to go with five rebounds and two blocks. Bassett finished with 13 points, five assists and four steals. Slagter notched a double-double for CMC with 23 points, 11 boards and three steals. Van Eps added 23 points on a 5-for-9 night from distance with Stoel and Ethan Brouwer tallying 11 points each.
“I wish them luck at the state tournament,” Bobeldyk said. “I think they’ll represent Section 3A well.”
MCC 31 54
CMC 33 72
REBELS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Woldt 0-1-0-2, Like 0-0-1-1, Bassett 1-5-0-13, Schreiber 1-0-0-3, Erickson 0-2-0-4, Rohrer 2-7-7-27, Lupkes 0-2-0-4. Totals 4-17-8-54.
BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Van Eps 5-3-2-23, Brouwer 1-3-2-11, Stoel 1-4-0-11, Slagter 4-5-1-23, Marcus 0-1-0-2, Zwart 0-1-0-2. Totals 11-17-5-72.