12/19/2013 12:55:00 PM Wildcats top defending section champion Grand Rapids in OT
by JEFF NORTON
Heading into the season, the Alex Illikainen-led Grand Rapids Thunderhawks figured to be the favorites in Section 7AAA. Illikainen is a Division 1 prospect, the Hawks won the championship last year, and they were 4-1 on the year heading into their game against Chisago Lakes on Friday, Dec. 13.
None of that mattered to Mitch Berg, Quinton Lee and Dylan Wood, the three heroes of Chisago Lakes’ 76-74 upset over Grand Rapids last week. The Wildcats jumped all over Grand Rapids early, nailing long shots and generally getting efficient looks at the hoop. Even at times when the offense didn’t go how it was supposed to, CL got a little lucky with their shots. All of that led to a 43-35 lead at halftime for the Wildcats. However, in the second half, Illikainen turned his game up a notch and started working down low. It was the type of performance Chisago Lakes’ had seen so often a few years ago when they trotted All-State player Benji Figini onto the court.
As Grand Rapids chipped away at the lead and CL watched it evaporate, a bevy of players tried to do their best to keep the ‘Cats in front. Will Gillach, Jakob Lindquist, Berg, Wood and Lee all scored in double digits and all had flashes of excellence that would stem the tide. But, that didn’t stop the Hawks from eventually taking a subtantial lead and holding it until late.. That’s when things started to get wild for the Wildcats, with Berg, a senior captain, at the center of the storm. Berg hit a three pointer with just under 15 seconds left to go to pull the Wildcats closer to the Hawks. After fouling on Grand Rapids’ ensuing possession, CL was down three points and needed a cold-blooded shot to send the game to overtime. Cue Mitch Berg. The senior is used to the big spot. He has started in basketball and baseball since he was a sophomore and has been the starting quarterback on conference championship teams for the last two years. The big stage doesn’t bother him. That was evident when Berg launched a 35 foot three point shot as the clock was winding down and drained it to send the home crowd into a frenzy and the game into overtime.
In the extra frame, the two teams only had a few possessions each, but Chisago Lakes made good on theres and eventually got a game-winning basket from sophomore center Dylan Wood to snatch the victory away from Rapids 76-74. Lee led the ‘Cats with 18 points. Wood and Lindquist each had 14, Gillach 12 and Berg 11. Illikainen ended with 33 points and 16 rebounds whil Trevor Elhard and Evan Reitter had 16 and 13 points for Grand Rapids, respectively.