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Forward Jeremiah Hanson is part of a solid sophomore class at Maranatha Christian Academy. Photo: Jerry Holt * jerry.holt@startribune.com

 

Maranatha Christian Academy boys’ basketball coach Jeff Wall hopes his team’s Class 1A state tournament championship game loss eventually becomes its gain.

The Mustangs, playing in the program’s first title game, showed their inexperience down the stretch in an 81-73 loss to Southwest Minnesota Christian. The Eagles won after taking second place in 2012, and Wall has a similar comeback in mind for his team.

“We sure hope so,” Wall said of a title run next year. “Getting to the championship game was a great experience, and we’re hoping to take that momentum and build even further.”

The Mustangs appear to have the horses. Junior point guard Josh Goldschmidt led the team in assists, contributed about nine points per game and served as “a great floor leader all season,” Wall said.

But the sophomore class holds the key to Maranatha’s bright future. Forward Jeremiah Hanson, the last of eight brothers to play for the Mustangs, scored 13.7 points per game and led the team in three-pointers made. Guard Grantham Gillard contributed 11.8 points per game. Forward Cameron Monson saw action in 26 regular-season games.

“These guys have answered every challenge from the beginning of the season until now,” Wall said. “It’s really been a fun group to coach.”

The first challenge for next year’s squad will be to develop roles and play cohesive basketball. Wall said he saw “shades of really good basketball” from this season’s team in December, highlighted by a victory against Robbinsdale Cooper in which the Mustangs overcame a 51-point performance by Rashad Vaughn.

“You could sense it was coming together at that point,” Wall said. “So we really felt we had a good opportunity in the playoffs.”

The Mustangs’ second challenge? Raising their level of play later in the season and sustaining intensity throughout the playoff grind as they did this season.

“You feel disappointed about the loss but I’m not disappointed in our kids or how hard they played,” Wall said. “They played with all their heart and that’s all you can ask in a championship game.”

 

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574

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