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Upsala's Dylan Zimmerman drove to the basket with Battle Lake's Dan Marso defending in the second half of the Class 1A quarterfinal game Thursday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS * kyndell.harkness@startribune.com

Upsala's Avery Smieja knows his role -- control the boards and alter as many shots as possible.

The 6-foot-6 senior center’s play on the defensive end of the court ignited the Cardinals’ offense down the stretch in a 71-60 victory over Battle Lake in a Class 1A quarterfinal game at Williams Arena.

Upsala went on a 16-2 run late in the second half, overcoming a three-point deficit to knock off the Battlers (22-6).

“Defense is my favorite part of basketball,” Smieja said. “Our coach always says, ‘We have to control the boards to be successful.’ That’s a big role for me being the tallest person on the team.” 

Smieja finished with 9 points, a game-high 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. He had 3 points, 6 rebounds, a blocked shot and an assist during the run.

“He’s being doing that all season for us,” Upsala coach Vern Capelle said. “That was huge for us, limiting them to one-shot possessions and converting on the other end.”

Junior guard Christian Pekarek had a game-high 25 points to lead the way offensively for the Cardinals (31-0).

Dan Marso, a junior guard, paced Battle Lake with 14 points.

RON HAGGSTROM

3 Stars

1. Christian Pekarek, Upsala

The junior led the Cardinals with 25 points. He was able to drive the lane all game with his speed, drawing fouls to get to the free throw line where he shot 5-9. Also making a crucial three point shot to make it a two-possession game with just six minutes left in the game to silence the Battlers. He also totaled eight rebounds, two short of a double double.

2. Dylan Zimmerman, Upsala

Clutch performance was Zimmerman's forte as he seemed to answer any of Battle Lake's final effort shots with scores of his own. He missed only two shots all game (both free throws) scoring 13 points, 5-5 on field goals, 1-1 from the three. He was a strong presence in the paint as well managing to grab eight boards.

3. Dan Marso, Battle Lake

Leading the charge for Battle Lake with 14 points was Marso. Shooting 3-5 beyond the arc in the first half made him quite the weapon outside. Unfortunately he only made one more three in the second half but continued to make plays.

-Trevor Squire, MN Basketball Hub

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Tag(s): Featured  Star Tribune  Battle Lake  Upsala  Class A