Andover made a great run in the section tournament to make its fourth trip to the state tournament, but it didn’t have an answer for one of the state’s top duos in Edina guard Graham Woodward or center Reggie Lynch.
Edina, the No. 3 seeded team in the Class AAAA state tournament, handed Andover a 99-61 loss in the quarterfinals at Target Center March 20.
“We were playing our best basketball going into tonight and unfortunately we weren’t able to keep pace with them,” Andover coach Nick Tibesar said. “We started the game pretty good but they put together a stretch together and we couldn’t keep pace with them.”
Andover took an early 5-2 lead after sophomore Jake McNallan had his own put-back 1:48 into the contest, but Edina took a 6-5 lead 40 seconds later and never looked back.
“We actually scored about as many points as we did all year long in the 60s-70s and obviously they got to the high 90s and we didn’t have enough offensive firepower to keep pace with them,” Tibesar said.
The Hornets capitalized on fast break chances by a 10-2 edge and dominated the paint by a 28-6 margin in the first half. Many of the quick-fire scores came from the one-two punch of Lynch making a play in the paint on the defensive side before finding Woodward on an outlet pass. Woodward weaved through traffic for a lay-in or high-percentage shot from near the basket.
Edina stretched the lead to 27 points or 51-24 with six seconds left in the half before McNallan made three free throws with two seconds left to finish the half down 51-27.
It was more of the same from Edina in the second half with Andover getting as close as 20 points five minutes into the half. Edina extended its lead to 35 points with 50 seconds left to trigger running time.
Woodward, Edina’s all-time leading scorer, solidified his place among the all-time best Hornets with a 40-point, seven assists and five rebounds performance, while Lynch, Edina’s all-time leading blocker, averaging six blocks coming into state hit that mark after swatting four shots in the first half.
Andover junior Connor Wilkie said trying to contain Lynch was tough and going at him on offense was even tougher. “Our plan was to double him, but he’s a really good player and impressive,” he said. “I didn’t expect him to be that strong. He’s a good player.”
Woodward came into the game averaging 26.3 points per game, but had that even before the halftime buzzer, with 32 points on 10 for 11 shooting and four assists. Tibesar said the plan to attempt to contain Woodward was to switch screens to get in his face and as the Huskies coach put it, “he was hitting them anyway. He as unbelievable.”
Woodward impressed Wilkie on the offensive side of the floor. “He’s quick and has a good mid-range shot which is something you don’t see in the high school game. He can slash and he can stop and pull-up,” Wilkie said.
Lynch had 14 points to give the Hornets duo 46 of the team’s 51 points in the first half on 74.1 percent shooting from the field (20-27). He was a big reason why the Hornets out scored Andover 52-16 in the paint for the game.
“Reggie’s a force inside and we really didn’t have a true post to go match-up with him,” Tibesar said. “There is no easy answer for that so we encouraged our guys to keep churning and fighting, play aggressive and play with a ton of heart. We were just talking about putting our best foot forward and playing our best basketball in the second half.
“I was really proud of the way they played in the second half and it’s unfortunate we don’t have more to show for our effort. It’s bittersweet to come here and have the result we had but nonetheless we were proud.”
Lynch finished with 24 points in the game and combined with Woodward to score 64 of the 99 total points. Edina cooled off slightly in the second half to make 59.7 percent of its field goals compared with Andover’s 29.5 percent shooting from the field for the game.
Andover juniors Connor Wilkie and Kyle Kettler each had 13 points and McNallan had 11 points.
Andover last made a state appearance in 2007, while Edina last played in the state tournament in 1991. If the quarterfinals are any indication of how well the Hornets are playing right now, they have a legitimate shot of ending a 46-year state title drought. Edina last won it all in 1968 which capped a three-peat.
Looking ahead to the future of the Andover program, Tibesar has many reasons to be optimistic. “I there is a lot [of positivity heading into next season],” Tibesar said. “This particular team over achieved to be here. So next time we want to over achieve by getting here then winning. We’ve got a good core group of young guys coming back but it was a huge testament to our seniors for bringing us here. And the future of our program is looking good. A lot of the guys who helped get us here are going to be back and now they have experience in the process so the hope is next time we don’t just make it here to make it here but give ourselves a chance to win.”