Boys prep basketball: Patriots down Rebels to advance to Section 7AA title game FR24 News English

DULUTH — Eli Laposky was just a sophomore on the Pequot Lakes men’s basketball team last year, but that doesn’t mean the sting of the 57-51 drop to Moose Lake/Willow River in last year’s Section 7AA Championship Game felt much better.

“I’m still thinking about it,” Laposky said.

Laposky scored 20 of his 23 points after halftime as the second-seeded Patriots got a little revenge with a 66-59 victory over the third-seeded Rebels in the semifinals of the Section 7AA on Tuesday, March 15, in front of approximately 800 at Romano Gym.

After Pequot Lakes took a 43-29 lead with 11 minutes remaining, Laposky helped keep the MLWR at bay by connecting on 10 of 13 free throws down the stretch. The same teams met Feb. 25 in Moose Lake, with the Patriots picking up a 59-57 victory.

“We slowed this game down a lot more, and we slowed them down,” Laposky said. “They really want to push the basketball, and we did a better job containing (Phil) Sheetz (nine points), which really hurt us last time out.”

Pequot Lakes (23-6) advances to Thursday’s division final in Romano, where the Patriots will face Esko (25-3). The Eskomos got 40 points from sophomore Makoi Perich in beating Crosby-Ironton 80-59 in Tuesday’s semifinal at Romano.

Laposky and Co. couldn’t help but notice this performance as they waited their turn on Tuesday.

“Esko likes to go fast, so does Moose, and obviously we have to slow Perich down,” Laposky said.

Although the final score may not indicate it, this game started at a snail’s pace, with Pequot Lakes leading 25-19 at halftime, only the scoreboard was 26-18 due to a free throw wrongly attributed to the Patriots. This blunder was corrected at half-time, but the scoreboard stopped working, delaying the start of the second half by around 10 minutes as the crowd and teams worried while the hardware restarted .

Grant Loge and Sam Rysavy scored 12 points each and Nic Kotaska and Gavin Kennen scored eight points each as Pequot Lakes asserted themselves to start the second half, using more human defense than the first time with MLWR.

Moose Lake/Willow River’s Jimmy Walker (13) and Duane Broughton hit the ground to argue for a loose ball with Pequot Lakes’ Gavin Kennen in the first half of a Section 7AA boys basketball semifinal Tuesday, March 15, 2022 at Romano Gym in Duluth.

Brandon Veale/Duluth News Tribune

All-Area News Tribune Football Player of the Year Logan Orvedahl had 22 points to lead the Rebels (19-9), Sam Dewey had 11 and Sheetz and Alex Watrin had nine points apiece.

The MLWR has only one player, Watrin (listed as 6-foot-4) at 6-foot-1.

“I think at every position they were a little bigger and a little faster than us,” MLWR coach Wes Cummins said. “It always takes a few weeks to get our guys out of football mode, at least physically, but the mentality never leaves them. We use it to our advantage.

Kotaska, however, in particular, was a thorn in the side of the rebels. MLWR would steal the ball, and he would steal just before they could cash in with a quick break.

“Nic is a competitor, the ultimate competitor,” Pequot Lakes coach Rich Spiczka said of Kotaska, generously sized at 5-foot-10 wearing cowboy boots. “You would like to have five on your team every night, and Eli lives and breathes. He thinks about basketball even when he’s not thinking about basketball.

It made for an interesting contrast to Moose Lake/Willow River, a school known for its football prowess but certainly more than capable of playing hoop as well. If the Rebels are ever challenged vertically, they make up for it with a lot of muscle, but Pequot Lakes showed courage.

“Our kids played with their guts tonight,” Spiczka said. “We have length, but we’re not going to intimidate anyone with sheer size and maybe strength, but we’re long and we’re trying to use that to our advantage. It doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet, with a rebound, but you throw it back to a teammate.

“Physically, there is no comparison (between us and them). If it’s a weightlifting contest or a street fight, we’re in trouble, but our guys competed tonight.

MLWR, which lost four seniors last year, including three starters, will get eight seniors this time around. These are players, according to Cummins, who have appeared in a handful of sectional championship games in their various sports.

“This group of seniors came together, playing since eighth and ninth grades,” Cummins said. “They are very special, and one match will not define them.”

Meanwhile, the Patriots are heading to another Division Finals. Thursday will tell if this one turns out to be better than the previous one.

“I’m just glad we’re back (in the section final),” Laposky said. “It’s the one we’ve been thinking about all summer. It’s just a great feeling… we can train again. Moose no longer trains, and we do. It’s a win for us.

Moose Lake-Willow River 19-40—59

Moose Lake-Willow River—Logan Orvedahl 22, Phil Sheetz 9, Duane Broughton 6, Sam Dewey 11, Chance Lunde 2, Alex Watrin 9. Totals 22 7-15 59.

3-point goals – Orvedahl 5, Sheetz 2, Dewey.

Pequot Lakes – Ryan Halmala 1, Nic Kotaska 8, Gavin Kennen 8, Brayden Spiczka 2, Grant Loge 12, Eli Laposky 23, Sam Rysavy 12. Totals 26 11-16 66.

3-point goals — Lodge 2, Laposky.

IMG_5465.JPG
Eli Laposky (32) of Pequot Lakes drives the ball away from Logan Orvedahl of Moose Lake/Willow River during their Section 7AA boys basketball semifinal on Tuesday, March 15, 2022 at Romano Gym in Duluth.

Brandon Veale/Duluth News Tribune

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