By Brady Ambrose
Josh Diersen knew it. The Caledonia boys basketball coach knew full well that any team in the 1AA east sub-section could beat any of the other teams. And that’s almost what happened Thursday when the #2 seeded Warriors were pushed to the limit by the #7 seeded La Crescent Lancers at CHS.
But in the end, Caledonia advanced with a 56-52 win after a pair of Caledonia underclassmen played like seasoned veterans to lead the Warriors to Monday night’s semi-final showdown with St. Charles at the Mayo Civic Center. Sophomore Kyle Sorenson scored six points and had five blocked shots, and freshman Colton Lampert scored five points and drew a huge offensive foul. “Kyle controlled the middle and Colton hit a huge shot for us,” head coach Josh Diersen said. “We had some guys step up. To have a gym packed like that and for Colton to draw that charge is huge. To have freshmen and sophomores come up big like that – it was a great effort across the board.”
La Crescent (8-17) led for most of the second half after the teams battled to a 30-30 tie at the break.
The Lancers took a quick lead on a basket from Joe Sandvik and then got into foul trouble when Melbostad picked up his fourth foul with 16:29 left in the game. A basket from Sorenson and West Spier’s steal and layup gave the Warriors a 36-34 lead, but La Crescent answered with a basket from Payton McQuin to tie the game with 10:52 left. Lampert then hit a pair of free throws but a trey from Lancer senior Ben McCoy – his only basket of the game – gave the Lancers a 39-38 lead with 8:48 to go. Lampert answered with a three to give the lead back to the Warriors at 41-39, but La Crescent again took over after Graham Eddy scored for a 43-41 lead with 7:35 to go.
With 4:50 to play Melbostad scored to put the Warriors down 47-44, but on the Lancers next trip down the floor Melbostad drove to the basket and was called for a charging foul after he plowed into Lampert, sending the La Crescent junior to the bench with 4:20 left to play.
Another Caledonia sophomore, Austin Bauer, got the Warriors right back in the game when he hit a 3-pointer from near the top of the key at the 4:07 mark to tie the game at 47 all. Varney then hit two free throws to give Caledonia a 49-47 lead, and Bauer hit two more to push the lead to 51-47 with 97 seconds left on the clock. Nathan Rohrer made another free throw to push the lead to five points at 52-47 with 38 seconds to play, but La Crescent then rattled off five straight points to cut the lead to 52-50 with 30 seconds to play. Josh Nord was fouled and hit two more from the charity stripe, but Sandvik grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled by Rohrer with 16.4 seconds on the clock. Sandvik made both free throws to pull the Lancers within a basket at 54-52. Rohrer was fouled and made one free throw for a 55-52 Warrior lead with 13.4 seconds left.
After a timeout a 3-pointer by McCoy was off the mark and Varney grabbed the rebound and hit one free throw for the 56-52 final. “We found a way and we moved on,” Diersen said. “That’s what’s important.”