Spoilers fall in region title game
Grafton struggles in second quarter, makes comeback in second half against Tornadoes
The season series between the Grafton Spoilers and the Cavalier Tornadoes evened out last Thursday in the Region 2 boys’ Basketball Tournament at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
The two teams finished tied at the end of the year for the conference title and Grafton won a coin flip for the number one seed in District 4.
Grafton won the first regular season game between the two teams in Cavalier. Cavalier won the second game at Grafton and then the Spoilers defeated Cavalier a little more than a week ago to win the District 4 tournament in Grafton.
In last Thursday’s Region 2 championship game, the Tornadoes rode a big second half offensive performance to a 57-50 win and the right to represent the region at the North Dakota Class B Boys’ Basketball Tournament next week in Minot.
The Spoilers and Tornadoes played even through the first quarter, much like the two teams have done throughout the course of the season.
A basket by Ryan Chrest with two seconds left gave Cavalier a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Christian Lunde drained a long 3-pointer to start the second quarter for Grafton to make the score 14-13, but from there on the Spoilers went cold from the field and the Tornadoes took advantage, scoring 14 unanswered points. Eight of the points came at the free-throw line as Cavalier began the game a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe. Five of those free throws came from Brock Robbins who penetrated to the basket at will and had eight of Cavalier’s 14 points in that stretch.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the basket (in the second quarter) which meant we couldn’t run our full court defense, and that killed us,” Grafton coach Riley Lillemoen said. “Whenever we don’t score we’re stuck playing half-court man and that’s what happened that whole second quarter.”
An old-fashioned three-point play by Garek Droog with 1:12 left in the half stopped the bleeding momentarily, making the score 28-16.
Ryan Chrest’s baseline jumper in the final minute gave the Tornadoes a 30-16 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
Cavalier scored the first four points of the third quarter, and with the Spoilers showing signs of life, managed to hold a 44-29 lead going into the final quarter.
The Spoilers picked up their defensive pressure and managed to rally in the fourth quarter, scoring the first six points of the final stanza on two made free throws and a steal and layup by Austin Contreras and a steal and layup by Zak Hernandez that made the score, 44-35 and prompted Cavalier coach Bryce Laxdal to call a timeout.
“We made some shots and were able to get into our diamond-press,” Lillemoen said. “That’s something we struggled with in the second quarter.”
The Spoilers got to within seven points twice in the final six minutes, but Robbins and the Tornadoes managed enough offense down the stretch to hold on for the seven-point victory.
“We just dug ourselves too deep of a whole to climb out of,” Lillemoen said. “But, I knew our guys would fight and claw until the last buzzer and that’s what they did.”
Brock Robbins led all scorers with 25 points including an 8-for-9 performance from the free-throw line. Chrest added 12, followed by Bryden Cleem with seven Dean Bjornson with six and Spencer Robbins with five.
Jarrett Johnson added two points for the Tornadoes, followed by Blaine Steiger with one.
The Tornadoes finished the game shooting 18-for-49 from the field, good for 46 percent and went 20-for-27 from the free-throw line, good for 74 percent.
“We executed better than we did the last two games we played against them,” Cavalier coach Bryce Laxdal said. “We didn’t give them many turnovers that led directly to points. We did a good job of running off the clock in the fourth quarter and we finished by making our free throws.”
Lunde led Grafton with 17 points, followed by Austin Contreras and Garek Droog with 13 points each. Matt Mendoza added three points for the Spoilers, followed by Hernandez and Julian Martinez with two points each.
The Spoilers finished the game shooting 18-for-44 from the field, good for 41 percent and went 9-for-11 from the charity stripe, good for 82 percent.
The two-time defending Region 2 champion Spoilers finished their season at 17-7.