Jerry Pratt had spent 34 minutes being frustrated. He spent two minutes making amends.
The Minneapolis Washburn senior forward took control of lane in the closing minutes of play, scoring six points in the last 1:41 of regulation to lift the No. 1-seeded Millers to a 52-49 victory Wednesday over upset-minded Rocori at Williams Arena. Pratt finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, seven of them offensive.
“I was determined,” Pratt said. “Like we always say, 'Let’s go eat.’ I went to eat.”
Up to that point, Rocori had played a nearly flawless game. The Spartans, playing to extend coach Bob Brinks’ career , controlled the game’s tempo and were not fazed by Washburn’s active half-court defense. They led 45-39 with seven minutes left in the game after three straight layups by forward Jonah Eisenschenk.
“I always say it’s a game of runs,” Washburn coach Reggie Perkins said. “We had to withstand their run.”
Facing the prospect of a first-round upset, the No. 1-seeded Millers (28-2) cranked up the perimeter defensive pressure. Passing lanes that Rocori had found earlier were suddenly closed. Turnovers began to pile up. The Spartans gave the ball away six times down the stretch as Washburn closed the game on a 13-4 run.
“They spread us out a little bit and I think some of our guys didn’t step forward at the end like I hoped they would. Maybe they wanted it for me a little too much,” said Brink, who has announced his retirement effective at the end of the season after 41 years as the only coach in Rocori history. “But it’s not about me. It’s about them and I’m proud of this team and what they accomplished this season.”
Nick Anderson added 13 points for Washburn, including two clutch second-half three-pointers. Rocori (18-12) was led by Mac Mueller’s 18 points.
Perkins took a few moments after the game to praise Brink.
“I’ve known Bob since I was 19 years old and playing at St. Cloud [State],” he said. “He’s a great man and a great coach. He always had his teams ready to play, like today.”
-- Jim Paulsen, Star Tribune
Jerry Pratt, Minneapolis Washburn
#22 for Washburn put the team on his back down the stretch, He was a man amongst boys on the boards, especially in the second half. He scored 14 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, while shooting 8-11 from the free throw line, including several down the stretch to seal the game.
Nick Anderson, Minneapolis Washburn
Anderson was the floor general throughout for Washburn. He led several key fast break opportunities generated by steals in the second half, finishing with 13 points and 4 assists. He drilled two important three-pointers in the second half to keep Washburn alive.
Mac Mueller, Rocori
The Spartans depended on Mueller's playmaking ability throughout, leading them with 18 points, dishing out 5 assist and grabbing 3 rebounds. He shot 7-10 from the field, with his last miss coming as the buzzer sounded.
-- Alec Kinsky, MN Basketball Hub Staff