Even though the Andover boys basketball team had a No. 7 next to its name in the Section 7AAAA tournament, the Huskies never felt like an underdog. They proved they were the best team in the section, winning three games in a row against the No. 2, 3 and 1 seeds to advance to the state tournament.
Andover is unseeded in the Class 4A state bracket and plays No. 2 Maple Grove at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Target Center.
The Huskies defeated top-seeded Forest Lake 63-53 in the section championship game March 17 in North Branch. The win came after a 74-71 victory against No. 3 Coon Rapids on March 15 and a 59-57 overtime win against No. 2 Blaine on March 9.
“To be honest, the words are escaping me,” Andover head coach Matt Aune said after the Forest Lake game. “It hasn’t sunk in. I’ll say this, I’m really amazed and proud of the composure that these guys played with. The season that we’ve had, we’ve had our fair share of downs. In that game alone, we gave up the 15-point lead and they came into the timeout and said ‘Hey, this is still our game.’ They were very composed. It’s a sweet feeling.”
Andover entered the section tournament with an 8-18 record. It’s the first state appearance for the program since 2013.
“We didn’t believe we were an underdog, but the fact that we had that No. 7 seed, other teams probably felt that,” Aune said. “Look at our record and our seed. But we truly believed that we were as good as everybody in the section.”
Andover controlled Forest Lake for most of the championship game, but had to hold strong against a late-game comeback. Down 45-30 with eight minutes to go, the Rangers reduced the deficit to 51-49 in five minutes of play.
But two Jacob Paul fastbreak layups flipped the momentum back to Andover’s side with a little more than a minute remaining. Forest Lake sent the Huskies to the free throw line down the stretch, and Logan Rezac, Paul and Andy Groebner went 6-for-6 to seal the game.
Paul finished with 24 points, Groebner scored 11 and Paul had 10.
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