Despite missing at least a dozen three-pointers and many shots under the basket, the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys only trailed No. 1 Nevis by 13 points at the half in the Section 5A West semifinals Saturday night in Wadena.
“The guys played hard in the first half, played effort on the defensive end, but we shot extremely poor. It’s only a 13-point game,” Coach Darin Schultz said. “The message was the game plan is working. In the second half we were going to be a different team; make our shots and get right back in it.”
The second half wasn’t better, as the Wolves’ shots continued to miss the mark while Nevis made a lot of theirs and cruised to a 70-44 win.
“It’s always hard at the end of the season, especially for our six seniors. They’re a great bunch of kids and I’m extremely proud of them,” the coach said after the game. “They have nothing to hang their heads for. I’m proud of everything they’ve done all year and what they’ve done for our program. It’s just a bummer it ended the way it did.”
The six seniors who played in their final game were Ethan Anderson, Connor Craven, Tom Hansen, Cole Rasmussen, Trent Schultz and TJ Smith.
Craven finished with 10 points; Rasmussen had eight points, 12 rebounds and seven assists; Smith had seven points and seven boards; Anderson finished with eight rebounds and two blocked shots; and Schultz had five points. Hansen, who led WHA in scoring in their first playoff win, took an elbow to the face early in the game and did not score. He also did not play the second half because of the head injury.
Leading the Wolves in scoring was junior Clay Nelson with 11 points, who also had five assists.
Mathias Warrington scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the first half as Nevis took a 34-21 lead. Derek Lindow finished with 18 points and Luke DeWulf had 11 points.
Rasmussen’s three-pointer on WHA’s second possession gave WHA a 3-2 lead, their only one of the game. A three by Warrington put the Tigers up 5-3, and he followed with a lay up off a steal. DeWulf added to the lead by draining two three-pointers in 30 seconds for a 13-5 lead, forcing Schultz to use a time out.
Nevis shot the ball well in the first half, making five threes, while WHA made only one out of nearly 15 attempts. They also missed several bunnies and a couple of lay ups as they fell behind 29-13.
A pass inside to Smith stopped a 9-0 run and was the Wolves’ first points in nearly five minutes. WHA scored three more baskets in the final three minutes, cutting the lead to 34-21 at the half.
The Wolves scored the first points of the second half on Craven’s basket, but a three by Warrington got Nevis on track. WHA would miss its next half dozen shots to fall behind by 21 points.
A three-pointer by Schultz after a time out was followed by Anderson’s lay up. Rasmussen’s basket and free throw cut the lead to 16, but that was the closest they got as the majority of the shots just wouldn’t fall.
In the other subsection semifinal, No. 3 seed Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa surprised No. 2 seed Pine River-Backus 54-36. Nevis and BBE will face off Wednesday night at Wadena-Deer Creek School.