By Brady Ambrose
When Austin Bauer’s six-foot jumper bounced off the rim and onto the court Saturday night it marked the end of a wild game between the Warriors and rival P-E-M that saw the Bulldogs escape with a wild 63-61 win. It also represented the end of the regular season. The Warriors finish play with an overall record of 15-10 entering tournament play.
The loss to the Bulldogs was a tough one. Caledonia led by seven points at halftime but then watched as P-E-M went on an 8-0 run to open up the second half.
“If we make some of those layups in the first half we’re up by 15,” said coach Josh Diersen. “Their offensive rebounding killed us. There are a lot of lessons we need to learn from tonight.”
The Bulldogs, most notably juniors Schuyler Thompson and Nick Shanks, dominated the boards and the scoring for P-E-M. Of the Bulldogs 59 field goal attempts, Thompson and Shanks accounted for 41 of them with Thompson leading all scorers with 27 points and Shanks adding 19. “We knew that coming in,” Diersen said. “They are both really good players.”
The Warriors opened up the game with an 18-8 run and extended it to 31-18 on a 3-pointer from Nathan Rohrer with 3:35 left in the first half, but P-E-M outscored the Warriors 10-4 the rest of the first half to close the gap to 35-28 at the break.
Thompson then hit a jumper to get the Bulldogs within a point at 35-34 two and a half minutes into the second half, but Caledonia regained the lead at 37-36 on a free throw from Kevin Lapham.
The Warriors built up a 45-40 lead on a trey from Bauer with 12:07 left, but Thompson scored again to knot the game at 48 all with 8:48 to go.
The Warriors went on a 7-0 run and took a 58-53 lead on a three-pointer from Alex Varney. With less than three minutes to play Varney sank one free throw for a 59-55 Caledonia lead, but a free throw from Shanks and a basket by Alex McGuire kept P-E-M close at 59-58 with 1:47 to go.
Varney hit two more free throws to give the Warriors a 61-58 lead, but Shanks scored again to keep the lead at one point at 61-60. With 45 seconds to go Thompson stole the ball and raced in for a layup that gave the Bulldogs the lead at 62-61.
Shanks was then fouled by Colton Lampert and made the first free throw for a 63-61 P-E-M lead. But Shanks missed the second layup and – like they had done all night – the Bulldogs grabbed the offensive rebound when Logan Sexton grabbed the ball out of the air and was fouled by Bauer. Sexton missed the free throw and Caledonia came down the floor with a chance to win, but Rohrer’s 3-pointer rattled in and out and in a mad dash for the ball, Bauer came up with it and had a good look at the basket, but his jumper off the glass bounced off at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a wild two-point win.
Caledonia started the week with a road trip to Rushford-Peterson where the Trojans rolled to a 59-42 win over the Warriors after Austin O’Hare scored 21 and Seth Thompson added 11.
West Spier led Caledonia with nine points in the loss. Caledonia has been given the #2 seed in the section 1AA east bracket and will host La Crescent Thursday night at 7 p.m. with the winner taking on the winner of the Lewiston-Altura vs. St. Charles game at Rochester March 4.