by Jason Olson
Anytime Blaine and Anoka square-off it’s a big deal, no matter the sport.
Tuesday night the teams met inside the Blaine Fieldhouse in the Section 7AAAA semifinals with the winner moving on to face top-seed Duluth East for a chance to play in the state tournament. With that on the line, No. 2 seed Blaine downed No. 3 seed Anoka 67-61 in a game that was much closer than the slim six-point difference.
Blaine couldn’t take advantage of a golden situation in the first half after Anoka senior stand-out guard Marcus Tyus picked up his third foul with 9:29 left in the opening half. Anoka led 16-14 at that point and the Bengals couldn’t seperate themselves as Anoka post Brandon Lindquist and company hung tough. Lindquist led the Tornadoes with 17 points.
Tyus returned for the final 1.4 seconds of the half, enough time to be fouled on an in-bounds pass under the Tornadoes basket. He made both free throws to give Anoka a 28-27 lead at the break. He finished with 13 points, more than a dozen points below his season average.
Blaine coach Mark Arzdorf said eliminating Tyus for a stretch of time came at a good time for his squad. “Marcus is one of a handful of players around that can take over a game no matter how you defend him,” he said. “So as long as he’s on the bench he can’t score.”
“[It] was a positive, that the guys were able to step up and keep it close,” Anoka coach Paul Broberg said.
Lindquist had emerged over the final handful of games, he said. “He got some big rebounds and I saw him go up and get those rebounds but he also missed some [lay-ups],” Broberg said.
A tense second half saw 12 lead changes and Blaine made seven of eight free throws to put the game out of reach. Both teams scored inside and weren’t afraid to test the defense in the paint.
Blaine senior Tanner Schumacher had a game high 22 points, while guard Alex Capprad had 20 points and was eight-for-eight from the free throw line.
Schumacher sank a three-pointer to make it 59-56 with 94 seconds left and the team made its free throws from that point to secure the win.
Arzdorf attributed the key free throws to the experience level. “Those are seniors who have gotten thousands of repetitions and they went up there with confidence and poise and I’m proud of how they knocked them down,” he said.
Blaine contained Anoka’s breakout offense and forced it to slow the pace into more of a half-court game. Familiarity played a role in the outcome as most of the players had either played with or against each other since third grade.
“They do score in transition and have some athletes who can run and we knew that we would have to limit them. We let a few get a way from us there,” Arzdorf said.
“We knew how they play. They knew how we play so it was a big rivalry for us,” Lindquist said. “At the end we couldn’t get the stops when we needed them.”
Bengals senior captain Duke Anyanwu said the rivalry between the two programs spans across more than basketball. “There’s some bad blood from football, you could say,” he said.
Anoka beat the Bengals twice in football, including a 27-22 score in the section final. “They embarassed us at their place but we came ready tonight,” Anyanwu said.