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Red Lake boys one step from return to Class A state tournament

RED LAKE - A trip to the state Class A boys basketball tournament will be on the line today when Red Lake heads to the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls to tangle with Northern Freeze in the Section 8A championship game.

Both teams will bring 22-7 records into the contest but the Warriors are riding a hot streak, winning their past 10 games and 15 of their last 16.

The Freeze is 7-3 in its last 10 outings.

During a Christmas tournament Red Lake and Northern Freeze squared off and on that day the Warriors fell 81-77. Red Lake head coach Roger White said that the Warriors learned from that game and he predicts that defense and rebounding will be the keys to a victory.

"Northern Freeze has a couple of big kids and we will have to get the rebounds and play tough defense," White said of today's 7 p.m. matchup. "Against Walker (a 73-53 Red Lake win in Tuesday's sub-section championship game) we stepped it up defensively and getting the stops helped us get out in transition. If we get stops defensively and are able to get in transition, things will go better for us."

The Northern Freeze inside game is led by 6-6 center Dustin Dahl and White hopes that the Warriors can limit Dahl's effectiveness.

"The key for us will be stopping their inside game," the coach said. "We have to keep the big kid off the boards. He's a big inside presence. We have kids who are 6-1 but we don't have anybody 6-6 so we will have to box out."

Red Lake, the East Sub-Section's second seed, began its tournament run with an 86-67 win over Mahnomen. The Warriors also tripped Northome-Kelliher 78-70 before dumping top-ranked WHA on Tuesday.

Northern Freeze is the top seed in the West Sub-Section and has defeated Red Lake County 50-46, Kittson County 49-44 and Warren-Alvarado-Osso 70-61.

"I think if we have an advantage (over Northern Freeze) it might be our bench," White said.

"I have eight guys who can play so I'm not losing a step with the bench or defensively. Our plan is to push the ball and we can do that with our bench."

Red Lake has made the state basketball tournament five times but the Warriors haven't been in the tourney since 2003. The players, however, are eager to end that drought.

"Our guys are really excited to play Friday," White said. "They are pumped. They've heard stories of what it was like to be at the state tournament and they want to get there. Ryan (Holthusen) is our senior guard and he's been playing with me since he was in the eighth grade. Every year we've talked about getting to state and this is the closest we've come.

"We're confident. Our defense is stepping up and our communication is getting better and we're going to hang our hat on the defensive side," White continued. "Friday night should be exciting."


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