|3/14/2013 11:03:00 AM|
'Cats move on to section semifinals with win, nipped by Grand Rapids in overtime
by JEFF NORTON
Chisago Lakes 55, Duluth Denfeld 49
Despite a sub-par 10-16 record on the season, the Chisago Lakes boys basketball team drew the third seed in Section 7AAA and dispatched their first round opponent last week.
The high seed for a 10-16 team came from a mix of factors. Section 7AAA is fairly weak, with only three teams with a winning record in it. One of those teams, Cloquet, was soundly beaten by Chisago Lakes earlier this year, so CL got the third seed behind Hermantown and Grand Rapids, two teams they nearly beat earlier this year also.
With their third seed, they hosted Duluth Denfeld on Friday, March 8. The Wildcats had a tough time shaking the Hunters throughout the whole game. They built a bit of a lead in the first half, going up 26-20, but that left Denfeld in striking range. Chisago was able to hold them at bay, however, behind a balanced mix of scoring, something Denfeld lacked. Chisago Lakes got six or more points from five players, including 15 from senior Vinnie Gorski and 14 from senior Clay Houfer.
Jake McKenzie also chipped in nine points, Mitch Berg had seven and Dylan Wood had six. Denfeld, on the other hand, had the top two scorers in the game in Jamarr Harris and his 18 points and Jerome Strother and his 16 points, but they didn’t have a single other player that netted over six points. The Hunters kept it close as the clock ran down, but they weren’t able to topple the favored Wildcats, as CL won 55-49. The ‘Cats will now go on the road and face Grand Rapids.
The second-seeded Thunderhawks were in the running for the top seed in the section until star sophomore center Alex Illikainen broke his hand nearly a month ago. The 6’9” behemoth was averaging nearly 26 points per game before the injury. When he first went down, he was expected to miss the rest of the season. However, Illikainen returned for sections with a brace on his hand and netted 25 points in Rapids’ first round victory over North Branch. Containing him will be the biggest challenge for Chisago Lakes, but it was something they were able to do in the team’s first meeting this year.
The Wildcats were right with the Thunderhawks all game on Friday, Dec. 14 when the two teams first met. Illikainen only scored 13 points as Grand Rapids won 53-49. Only Gorski scored in double digits for the Wildcats that game, with 12 points.
Grand Rapids 59, Chisago Lakes 57 (OT)
The Wildcats season ended when they dropped their section semi-final match up to Grand Rapids in overtime on Wednesday, March 13. For a full story on the game, check out the March 21 edition of the Chisago County Press.