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South Section 3AA boys basketball: JCC falls to St. James, 76-72

Jackson County Central junior Rudy Voss (2) goes to the basket Monday night in the South Section 3AA tournament final against St. James in Worthington. (Aaron Hagen/The Globe)

By AARON HAGEN

The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- With just less than three minutes remaining in Monday’s Section 3AA boys basketball game, Jackson County Central had a three-point lead over St. James Area.

But Kobe Mohwinkel hit two 3-pointers to give the Saints a lead they wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 76-72 victory.

“It’s really tough, especially when you have the fans behind you like that,” JCC junior Rudy Voss said. “You know that everyone just loves you and we all love each other. That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most, just coming every day with the guys, working hard. We’ve worked all year to get to this point. It’s tough to lose a tough one like that. Credit to St. James, they are a very good team, they shoot the ball well and they are very well coached. They had a couple more shots than us tonight.”

The second-seeded Huskies and the top-seeded Saints were locked a high-intensity contest from the opening tip. Neither team led by more than eight points in the game.

“I’ve played in a lot of big games, especially as a freshman when we made it to state,” Voss said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played in an atmosphere this wild. It was packed from the floor to the top of the roof and it was one of the best environments I’ve played in.”

JCC struggled early and trailed for much of the first half, but surged late to lead 29-28 at halftime.

“Right away I thought we had good possessions and we couldn’t get one to go in,” JCC head coach Alex Hein said. “We missed our first two layups, so maybe that’s a little nerves, but we kept battling. I told them, ‘Guys, keep your emotions in check and just keep doing the right actions.’ We kept at it and we ended up getting some buckets in.”

The Saints took the second-half lead and started to create some separation. After a 3 from Derrick Halvorson (18 points), they led by six.

Enter Voss.

The junior guard scored his team’s next 13 points as JCC was within two, but the Saints continued to find success on the offensive end.

“Unfortunately while (Voss) was hot, St. James kept countering,” Hein said. “That’s impressive on their end to continue to get a bucket every time it looked like we were going to pull ahead. The persistence from St. James was impressive tonight.”

Andrew Hesebeck (18 points) converted a three-point play for JCC and Voss made a 3 to tie the game. After an answer, Voss made a shot, Hesebeck put in a basket and Voss -- who scored 27 of his game-high 36 points in the second half -- made a free throw to give JCC a 68-65 advantage.

“This is the type of stuff you live for as far as a coach and a player. It’s too bad one of the teams had to lose, but it was such a good battle back and forth,” Hein said. “We were down eight and I thought we were dead in the water. But then our kids battled and we were up by three and I thought we had it. Hats off to St. James for continuing to battle right back.”

But Mohwinkel hit a 3 to tie the game and made another one 30 seconds later to give SJA the lead.

The Huskies had a chance late as they trailed by two with 18 seconds remaining, but the Saints made two free throws to seal the win.

St. James Area will meet Redwood Valley on Thursday with a state berth on the line.

“We have a group of kids who are really motivated,” SJA head coach Spencer Monson said. “When you look at our roster, we have a lot of seniors on it and they aren’t ready to be done. Even when it looked dicey there at times, there is just no quit in this team.”

Jackson County Central 29 72

St. James Area 28 76

JACKSON COUNTY CENTRAL (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Carr 0-3-0-6, Voss 3-12-3-36, Buhl 0-0-1-1, Brinkman 0-1-6-8, Hesebeck 0-9-3-21. Totals 3-25-13-72.

  1. JAMES AREA (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hanson 1-2-2-9, Halvorson 3-4-1-18, Hillesheim 0-1-0-2, Carlson 2-0-0-6, P. Jones 0-6-3-15, Mohwinkel 4-0-0-12, H. Jones 0-7-0-14. Totals 10-20-6-76.