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Maranatha Christian Academy's Garrison Gillard went up for a shot in the first half of his team's Class 1A semifinal against Rushford-Peterson Friday at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES * eflores@startribune.com

Maranatha Christian Academy reserve guard Carter Burquest went from delighted to disappointed in a manner of minutes Friday afternoon.

He left the Target Center court knowing his Mustangs defeated Rushford-Peterson 61-46 in Class 1A state basketball semifinal action but wondering about the integrity of his NCAA tournament bracket.

Television near the Mustangs’ locker room showed the Ole Miss upset of No. 5 Wisconsin. Burquest pulled his jersey over his face as his heart sank. A student manager said what Burquest was thinking: “My bracket is destroyed.”

Burquest said he had the Badgers going to the Elite 8. But Maranatha (31-1), located in Brooklyn Park, is headed to its first title game in school history. The Mustangs, ranked No. 1,  play at noon on Saturday.

For the second time in as many games, the Mustangs went into halftime with a two-point lead. And they once again broke it open in the second half with strong defense and a productive transition game.

A steal by junior forward Josh Goldschmidt became a fast-break lay-in for senior guard Garrison Gillard. As Gillard pointed down court to acknowledge the pass, a referee signaled a Rushford-Peterson timeout. The two gestures represented a game slipping out of the Trojans’ grasp.

Gillard’s bucket gave Maranatha a 12-point lead the Trojans would never seriously challenge in the game’s final 11 minutes.

“I could feel the game tilt, the momentum going our way,” said Gillard, who scored 12 points and was one of four Mustangs in double figures. “As our coach would say, we could see the hay in the barn.”

March Madness soon set in for Rushford-Peterson coach Thomas Vix, who said he told his team to gamble defensively in hopes Maranatha shooters would fail to convert on better perimeter looks.

Instead, the Mustangs hit three-pointers on three of their next four scoring possessions — two from sophomore guard Grantham Gillard (13 points overall) and one from sophomore forward Jeremiah Hanson (17). Senior forward Isaiah Hanson led the Mustangs with 18 points.

“That was a real kick in the head,” Vix said.

Seth Thompson led the Trojans (27-4) with 20 points.

Three Stars

1. Isaiah Hanson, Maranatha Christian
When the Rushford-Peterson defense was clamping down on their offense, Hanson was the one person still finding the basket.  Finishing with 18 points and 6 rebounds, he was a big reason Maranatha pulled away in the second half and will play in the championship game tomorrow.

2. Josh Goldschmidt, Maranatha Christian
While Goldschmidt didn't score a single point in this game, he filled up the stat sheet in a big way. He tallied 5 assists, 4 blocks, 4 steals, and 8 rebounds. He was essential for keeping the ball moving against a stingy Rushford-Peterson full court press.

3. Seth Thompson, Rushford-Peterson
Doing everything possible to pull his team back at the end, Thompson scored 16 of his 20 in the second half. At one point draining back-to-back three pointers within 30 seconds of each other.

-Jake Lunemann, MN Basketball Hub

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Tag(s): Around the State  Featured  Star Tribune  Maranatha  Rushford-Peterson  Class A