Waseca’s Elijah Carter, left, and Kaleb Nelson tried to take the ball away from Isaiah Lemke of Fergus Falls. (Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune)
Waseca’s Nick Dufault couldn’t ask for much more out of his senior season.
The Bluejays’ four-overtime, three buzzer-beater 103-100 victory against Marshall in the section final made national headlines and even earned Dufault and teammate Cole Streich an appearance on “SportsCenter.”
It was the highlight of a year that saw the southern Minnesota program reach its first state tournament since 2002. It also carried meaning to the community for reversing the negative attention the school received after a student had planned a bombing and school shooting in 2014.
“No one expected us to win or even get to the section semifinals against Mankato East, so I’m just really grateful that we got to make this run,” said Dufault, whose team fell Wednesday to Fergus Falls 70-63 in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
“I’m so thankful for all the support we have. You saw the people out there. It was insane. We had so much fun going out there for a town that loves us so much.”
Injury hobbled hopes
Maple Grove’s loss to Lakeville North in the Class 4A state quarterfinals could be traced back to early January, when 6-4 junior guard Tywhon Pickford was lost for the season because of a torn ACL in one of his knees.
Pickford was averaging a team-high 18.3 points per game. Junior guard Brad Davison picked up the offensive slack, but teams were able to gear their defenses to stop Davison and 6-10 senior center Reed Nikko. Lakeville North did just that in its 60-49 victory, forcing Nikko to foul out and holding Davison to 3-for-18 shooting from the field.
Still, Davison said the Crimson had plenty to be proud of.
“We had a really good year. The most wins in school history ,” Davison said.
“My coaches and teammates did a great job of adapting to new roles when Tywhon went out. We can be proud of that.”
Honoring a stepdad
St. Croix Lutheran senior guard Ade Murkey went by the last name Lamu until this season, a change he made in honor of his stepfather.
Clifford Murkey recently married Ade’s mother, though Ade first met him through basketball about eight years ago.
“We always had a strong bond because we both love basketball,” said Ade Murkey, who bumped up his scoring average from 16.2 points per game as a junior to 21.7 this winter.
Clifford Murkey, in his second year as a Crusaders’ assistant coach, played college basketball at New Mexico State.
DAVID LA VAQUE
Monticello’s victory in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Williams Arena on Wednesday assures this year’s team of equaling the best finish in school history‑ fourth place in 2004.
“To be in this position is extremely special,” Monticello coach Jason Schmidt said. “I’m a kid who grew up in Monticello, so I know how much this means to our kids, alumni and community.”
The Magic would become the first team in school history to win two state tournament games if it defeats No. 1-rated DeLaSalle in the semifinals on Thursday afternoon at the Target Center. No easy task for Monticello (20-10). DeLaSalle, which Schmidt called “a great team,” is seeking its fifth consecutive state championship.
“We only have to beat them once, not seven times,” said a smiling Schmidt, who was on the program’s first state tournament team in 1995. The Magic, which was also part of the state tournament field 10 and 20 years ago, is making its ninth state tournament appearance.