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Loose, confident Maple Grove upsets previously unbeaten Champlin Park in overtime

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 03/31/21, 10:00PM CDT


After the Rebels' Francis Nwaokorie made a three-pointer to tie the game to end regulation, the Crimson pulled away for a 70-61 victory.

Maple Grove forward Lincoln Palbicki (55), guard Andy Tran (15), and guard Jon Haakenson (2) celebrated at the buzzer after the Crimson upset Champlin Park. Photo: JEFF WHEELER • jeff.wheeler@startribune.com

This was not supposed to happen.

Maple Grove, with nine losses — the most in the Class 4A tournament field — wasn’t supposed to pose a threat to No. 1-ranked and undefeated Champlin Park.
The Rebels had already defeated the Crimson twice during the regular season. A third time was supposed to be a formality.

But Maple Grove was the true rebel, not doing what it was supposed to do. The Crimson pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, defeating Champlin Park 70-61 in overtime Wednesday at Osseo High School.

“They had all the pressure on them,” said senior wing Morgan Moore, who led the team with 25 points. “We came in cool, collected, and just got things done. We faced them a few times during the regular season, so we knew how they play and how to beat them.”

All season Champlin Park had leaned on its two big guns, 6-7 forward Francis Nwaokorie and 6-0 guard Joshua Strong. Nwaokorie showed well, collecting 31 points before fouling out in the extra session. Strong and the rest of the Rebels had shooting struggles and difficulty solving Maple Grove’s defenses.

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