Fourth-seeded Andover opened play in Section 7AAAA with a 57-49 win over rival and No. 5 seed Blaine March 7.
Blaine’s Matt Barthels and Andover’s Jake McNallan each had 15 points to share game-high honors. Bengals senior Jerome Egbujor had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while senior guard Joe Robel had four steals on the defensive end to go with two assists, three rebounds and one point on the offensive side.
In addition to 15 points, McNallan came up huge with three steals and three blocked shots to key the Huskies to the win.
“McNallan’s performance was the story of the game,” Andover coach Nick Tibesar said. The junior blocked Robel’s three-point attempt with the game tied 49-49 and transitioned that into a one-and-one at the other end to spark Andover to the 57-49 final score.
Andover’s Connor Wilkie had his own double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He also had two steals and one assist. The Huskies defense had 16 steals and blocked four shots.
Blaine out-rebounded the Huskies by a 38-29 margin and led by 10 points at the half, but couldn’t hold onto the lead.
Tibesar said the message at halftime challenged the Huskies to play more aggressive. “We were playing too much within ourselves and needed to compete at a higher level,” he said. “The credit for the second half comeback is due to our players, not any noteworthy game-plan adjustment. Our guys are extremely resilient and tough and it was their efforts that brought us a win.”
Andover came alive in the second half with a 38-20 rally in the second half to earn a place in the second round after entering sections on a four-game losing streak. That streak included losses to No. 3 ranked Park Center and No. 6 Hopkins. The Huskies swept both regular season meetings, 64-52 Jan. 8 and 71-65 Feb. 12.
With the win, the Huskies face top-seed St. Francis March 11. Tibesar said that same defensive effort will have to be a big factor once again if they hope to have a chance against the top-seeds.
“It took us a long time to find a productive offensive rhythm against Blaine which is a great credit to their defense in the first half,” he said.
No. 3 Forest Lake topped No. 6 Cambridge-Isanti 83-62 and No. 2 Duluth East halted No. 7 seed Anoka 58-47 in the other two quarterfinal games. Duluth East and Forest Lake will square off at North Branch High School March 11.
No. 2 Duluth East 58, No. 7 Anoka 47
Anoka’s season came to an end in the Section 7AAAA opener with a 58-47 loss at second-seeded Duluth East March 7.
The Tornadoes ended the season 3-23 and dropped the final 11 games of its season. They had just one win over the last 22 games dating back to Dec. 14. The win came against winless Coon Rapids (60-49 Jan. 29).
Shaq Coleman had 33 points to lead the Greyhounds as only three players scored for the home team. Matt Lochner had 19 points and Chase DeDominees added six points. Meanwhile, Anoka senior guard Malcom Seals had 13 points.
Senior Robert Ben reached another career milestone, scoring his 1,000 career point early into the game. He finished with a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds when No. 3 Spring Lake Park topped Minneapolis Patrick Henry 82-67 in the Section 3AAA opener March 7.
The Panthers (14-13) led by three points at the break and pulled way in the second half by a 47-35 margin for the final result thanks to an energized rebounding effort on both ends of the floor and stepped-up defensive pressure to turn Henry over to extend the lead.
Spring Lake Park’s TC Robinson led the team with 24 points and Gary Cook had 18 points, while the team shot the ball well down the stretch, making 24 of 31 free throws in the game. Robinson was 10 of 14, Cook was 5of 6, Ben was 7 of 9 and Alex Peck was 2 of 2. Trevor Hall added nine points from three pointers and had three steals.
Henry’s Darius Hill scored a game-high 26 points and Jamar Boone added 23 points in the loss.
The Panthers move on to face St. Anthony Village in the section semifinal at Coon Rapids High School at 8 p.m. March 12. St. Anthony upset No. 2 seed Columbia Heights 58-57. The Huskies led by 10 at the half and made that lead stand, despite a furious comeback by the Highlanders in the second half. St. Anthony’s Mike Studer had a game-high 20 points.
Legacy Christian, No. 7 seed, won its Section 4A opener against Christ Household of Faith Thursday, 64-47 to reach the quarterfinals against No. 2 West Lutheran schedule for a 7 p.m. tip-off March 9.
Colton Richards led the Lions with 19 points, Connor Peterson added 14 points and Nate Bertsch added 12 points in the win.