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Bemidji Pioneer 

Red Lake drops third-place game to Central Minnesota Christian


ST. PAUL -- The fast-paced run-and-fun Red Lake Warriors never got in gear Saturday morning at Concordia University in St. Paul.

Playing in the Minnesota Class A boys’ state basketball tournament third-place game, the Warriors looked sluggish all contest and dropped a 79-45 decision to Central Minnesota Christian.

“I think we just didn’t come to play today,” said Red Lake head coach Roger White. “Central Minnesota Christian is a pretty good school. They took care of the ball, they rebounded, they were physical. And that’s about it.”

Red Lake ended its season with a 27-6 record.

Central Minnesota Christian finished 28-4.

In the team’s final game of its third consecutive and eighth overall state appearance, little went right for the Warriors.

Red Lake shot just 33 percent from the field for the game (15 of 45) and just 26 percent from the 3-point line (5 of 19). Central Minnesota Christian on the other hand, made 31 of 66 field goals (47 percent).

The Warriors were outrebounded 49-27 and committed 22 turnovers to 13 for the Bluejays. The unequal shooting percentages and rebounding were the differences in the game.

The hot shooting of junior guard Will Morrison staked the Warriors to an early 13-9 lead with 10:54 to play in the first half. But the Bluejays went on a 9-0 run to take an 18-13 lead and never looked back.

Red Lake and Central shot about the same percentage in the first half, the Bluejays hitting at 41 percent, the Warriors at 44 percent. However, the Bluejays put up twice as many shots as the Warriors, hitting 14 of 34 attempts to just 7 of 16 for the Warriors.

The Bluejays also dominated the first half rebounding, grabbing 22 rebounds to 11 for Red Lake.

Central led 34-22 at the half.

“It’s early,” White said of the 9:30 a.m. game tipoff, “and our guys weren’t awake I think. It’s pretty early in the morning for our guys. It might have made a difference but we still didn’t do the things we needed to do to stop them.”

The second half was more of the same for both teams. Red Lake never made a serious run and Central Minnesota Christian just keep on rebounding and getting good shots. The margin grew to 20 midway through the second half and both coaches started substituting liberally.

The Warriors never got their running game going, and their ability to score suffered accordingly. Morrison led Red Lake with just nine points. Rob McClain scored eight and Jamie Cook had seven.

Senior guard Taylor Slagter was unstoppable most of the game for the Bluejays and finished with 31 points and nine rebounds.

With four starters returning, and losing just three seniors overall, next season looks bright for the Warriors.

The Warriors knocked off Browerville-Eagle Valley 66-52 in the Class A quarterfinals, and then gave No. 1 Minneapolis North a fierce battle in the semifinals before losing.

“Great season,” White said. “We talked about it a little bit yesterday how emotional it has been for me. But like I said, these boys have helped me get through some of this grief.”

This season and this week's tournament had far more meaning than mere basketball for the Warriors. It was in many respects a memorial season to the memory of the coach's 15-year-old son, Aaron, who died of cancer just before basketball practice began in the fall.

"Being through what I've been through as a coach, losing my son, things that really, really are important sometimes don't seem as important," White said after the game against Minneapolis North. "When we got here it's all about these boys, and what they do, using basketball as an instrument of life."


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