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PREP BOYS' BASKETBALL: Wolverines end Pats' impressive postseason

MARSHALL -- The road to the section final wasn't easy. But the Hills-Beaver Creek boys' basketball team passed every test it was given during the Section 3A tournament. In Thursday's section final at the R/A Facility on the campus of Southwest Mi...

H-BC's Cory Tilstra
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Hills-Beaver Creek's Cory Tilstra (21) lines up a shot over a MACCRAY defender during Thursday's Section 3A boys' basketball championship game at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

MARSHALL -- The road to the section final wasn't easy.

But the Hills-Beaver Creek boys' basketball team passed every test it was given during the Section 3A tournament.

In Thursday's section final at the R/A Facility on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University, the Patriots ran up against a tough MACCRAY team.

H-BC got down early and couldn't recover in a 70-61 loss to the Wolverines, ending a magical run for the Patriots.

"It's real tough," H-BC senior Cory Tilstra said. "We worked hard and played some tough teams to get this far, but we were hoping to make it farther and make it the first time going to state, but we couldn't quite do it."

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While H-BC will have to wait at least one more year to make its first trip to state, the Wolverines return for the first time since 1996.

"It's about time," MACCRAY head coach Gary Nelson said. "I've had some good teams and we've knocked at the door about three times since 1996, but I do feel for a team that played as well as they did. It's their first chance to go and we're the ones that beat them. If we weren't here, I'd be cheering for them. But I was cheering for us tonight. They are a well-coached team and they have good players."

The third-seeded Patriots defeated Round Lake-Brewster, Southwest Christian and Ellsworth to reach Thursday's section final.

But the Wolverines were too much on Thursday.

"They are a very good team," H-BC head coach Steve Wiertzema said. "They did lots of things well tonight. I thought our kids played awfully hard, we just struggled offensively tonight."

The Patriots were able to stick right with the Wolverines, but couldn't get closer than eight points in the final minutes.

"Lately our defense has been really good, but today we started off in a zone and tried that a little bit and that didn't work at all, so we played man the rest of the game," H-BC senior Karic Wiertzema said. "We kept it at that 10-point mark, but we could never get past it. We knew rebounding would be a huge thing and we worked on it all week in practice. But they are a great team and they rebound well. They go to the boards really well. Inside was just tough for us. They worked hard, but shots were falling. It just wasn't our night."

Playing in his final game as a Patriot, Karic Wiertzema left it all on the floor. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while playing all 36 minutes.

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"Being your last game as a senior, you have to lay it all out on the floor," Karic said. "You never know in the tournament which game could be your last. Every game you have to leave it out there. My teammates stepped it up, too. I give my teammates a lot of credit. I'm not the only one doing stuff out there. They help me out a lot.

"Down the stretch, I didn't want to lose. Down 10 with three minutes left, you're pretty much looking at your career being over. You just have to go hard or don't go at all. I was getting tired, but I couldn't stop."

H-BC trailed by 12 late in the second half, but a basket by Karic Wiertzema brought the score back within 10, 57-47 with 2:30 remaining.

After a pair of free throws by MACCRAY, Tilstra hit a 3, cutting the deficit to nine.

"Those 3s felt good every time you hit one," said Tilstra, who finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers. "You jack up the crowd and jack up everybody as much as you can. I did my part out there, I tried shooting as many as I could. Whenever I was open, I knocked them down. I tried forcing some at the end of the game and that wasn't working. But I had to shoot them to try to get us back into it."

However, like they did all night, the Wolverines had an answer.

"That hurt," Tilstra said. "We got our crowd going pretty good. I thought our crowd was great. We'd make a big shot and they would usually come down and score again."

And that's what they did. The Wolverines answered with a free throw to push the lead to 10 points again. And after a pair of free throws by H-BC's Seth Nuffer (13 points, seven rebounds), MACCRAY's Taylor Thissen answered with two foul shots of his own to keep the lead at 10 points.

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"It felt like we were making runs, but every time we would make a run, they countered it by scoring or getting a big stop," Karic Wiertzema said. "We could never get past that eight or 10-point mark. They are a great team, give them a lot of credit. It seemed like every time we scored and got a big basket, they would come right back."

Karic Wiertzema hit four free throws in a 30-second span, but MACCRAY continued to knock down free throws, sealing the nine-point victory.

"We knew they were pretty good," Karic said. "We knew a lot of what they did, but they executed pretty well. They are a great team. Hands down, I give them a lot of credit, they played really good."

The Wolverines were led by Seth Hinrichs, who scored 22 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. Brady Boike added 14 points and 10 rebounds as MACCRAY was able to limit H-BC's rebounds.

"Overall, our goal is to play tough defense and don't give them a second shot," Nelson said. "If they make all their first shots, then we lose. But we can't give them second looks and I thought we did a good job on that."

Karic Wiertzema had a steal and layup to give the Patriots a 2-0 lead to start the game, but Hinrichs answered with a bucket and Boike hit a shot to give MACCRAY the 4-2 lead.

Nuffer then answered with a three-point play, giving H-BC the 5-4 advantage.

However, Hinrichs answered with a trey, giving MACCRAY a 7-5 lead. After Karic Wiertzema made two free throws to knot the game at 7-all, Hinrichs made a shot to give his team the lead again. Nuffer answered with a basket, knotting the score at 9-all, but Boike hit a shot giving MACCRAY a lead it wouldn't relinquish in the game.

"We missed a few shots early inside and lost a little confidence," Steve Wiertzema said. "They are a very physical team. They took away some things we wanted to do. We have to give them some credit."

Tilstra hit a 3 and Nuffer scored inside as the Patriots were within a point, but Hinrichs scored 13 of his team's first 25 points as MACCRAY opened up as much as a 12-point lead in the first half.

Karic Wiertzema hit a shot, Travis Helgeson (nine points) hit a free throw, Tilstra hit a 3 and Jeff Sandbulte made a basket as H-BC narrowed the deficit to six points, 34-28.

Boike then had an offensive rebound put back, giving MACCRAY a 36-28 lead at halftime.

"They got some offensive rebounds that really hurt," Steve Wiertzema said. "We talked about that, you have to limit them there. They go to the boards hard and they are physical. They did an excellent job."

Out of the break, MACCRAY's Jamie Boonstra made an early trey, giving his team momentum.

"I thought a big shot was Boonstra in the second half," Nelson said. "He shoots a 3 and makes it right away. I said that's great because we got the first points. We like to come out of the locker room and score first. I'll give kudos to him. Those were his only points, but they were big points."

Tilstra hit a 3 of his own to cut the deficit to six, but the Patriots went cold from the field.

"You get a little momentum, but we had a stretch there early in the second half where we had five straight possessions that were empty," Steve Wiertzema said. "You just can't do that."

The teams traded baskets during the next few minutes, but H-BC couldn't convert on some good looks.

"We missed some bunnies and we weren't moving the ball as well and setting screens," Tilstra said. "They were playing good defense."

H-BC continued to battle until the end, but MACCRAY sank 12 of 14 free throws in the final 2:27 to seal the game. The Wolverines finished 18 of 22 from the line in the game.

"I'm excited about that," Nelson said. "We've been pretty good all year, but I'm excited about that."

The Patriots finish their season 23-7.

"It's tough anytime, it's tough for any group," Steve Wiertzema said. "You lose that last game, that's maybe the worst thing about coaching."

Meanwhile, the Wolverines will advance to next week's state tournament. They will face the Section 4 winner between Maranatha Christian Academy and defending champion Minnesota Transitions Charter.

"I like my team," Nelson said. "They are playing well. I'm not going to think about it tonight, but I'm going to have to in the morning. I like the way we're playing. Do I like my chances? Of course I do.

H-BC 28 33 -- 61

MACCRAY 36 34 -- 70

H-BC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Wiertzema 0-7-8-22, Tilstra 4-0-0-12, Sandbulte 1-1-0-5, Helgeson 0-4-1-9, Nuffer 0-6-1-13. Totals 5-18-10-61.

MACCRAY (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Abbas 0-4-4-12, Boonstra 1-0-0-3, Aikens 0-3-4-10, Boike 0-7-0-14, Hinrichs 1-7-5-22, Thissen 0-2-5-9. Totals 2-23-18-70.

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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