Third time is not the charm
Grafton boys fall to Tornadoes in District 4
The Grafton Spoilers and the Cavalier Tornadoes once again met in what may be the last District 4 championship game ever played. Cavalier took the final honor with a victory over the Spoilers by a score of 48-42.
The Spoilers were led by 6-5 senior center Garek Droog who had 20 points and nine rebounds followed by Zak Hernandez with 10 points.
Cavalier’s Ryan Chrest scored 21 points and Brock Robbins had 10.
The Grafton gymnasium was nearly full to see the two District 4 top teams battle it out for bragging rights and a top seed in the regional tournament.
Grafton’s coach Riley Lillemoen said, “The game was exactly what I expected it to be. Both teams looked good at times and sloppy at others.”
The Spoilers came out with intensity and Grafton jumped out to a first quarter lead 12-7. Droog scored 10 of the 12 first quarter points.
“They came out and hit us on the chin right away, Droog especially,” said Cavalier coach Bryce Laxdal.
Cavalier’s top scorer Robbins picked up two early fouls attempting to guard Droog prompting a defensive change from Laxdal.
“We just always need to have a body on him (Droog),” said Laxdal. “We switched and put Blaine Steiger on him (after Robbins picked up his second foul) and he played him great.”
Droog scored four in the second quarter, half of the Spoilers points for the quarter. The Tornadoes trailed until a last second basket by Trent Karel ended the half with Cavalier taking the 21-20 lead into the locker room, their first lead of the game.
The Tornadoes came out in the second half and went on a 9-2 run to lead by eight. Lillemoen called a timeout at the 4:41 mark to refocus his team.
“We had a couple bad turnovers that cost us a couple possessions and also missed a couple box-outs that cost us some points,” Lillemoen said.
Grafton eventually cut the score to three at 32-29 but again the Tornadoes outhustled the Spoilers and went up by seven before Hernandez hit a basket with 1.8 seconds remaining to conclude the third quarter with Cavalier leading 36-31.
Grafton scored first in the final quarter to cut the lead to three before the Tornadoes took advantage of a few turnovers and eventually increased their lead to seven points midway through the fourth quarter.
The Spoilers made a run with a basket from Droog and three free throws by Brody Nelson to cut the score to two with less than two minutes remaining.
The Tornadoes then went on an 8-0 run to lead 48-38 with 21.7 seconds remaining. The Spoilers fouled Robbins who missed the free throw. Grafton came down quickly and Hernandez drove for a basket with 10.6 seconds making the score 48-40 prompting another Grafton timeout. On the inbounds play Robbins was fouled again, this time by Droog with 8.8 seconds to go. Cavalier was in the double bonus but Robbins missed both free throws. Hernandez scored again at the end to make it 48-42 but time expired giving Cavalier the win.
“I give credit to Cavalier for playing hard and making a few more plays than us,” said Lillemoen. “We just need to keep focused and play hard on Monday. If we don’t show up to play, we can easily lose to any team that’s in the (regional) tournament. We need to limit mistakes and be mentally tough.”
Grafton will play the second game of the first round of the regional tournament against Hatton-Northwood at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks on Monday.
“I think every team going down to regionals has a chance to win it. We put ourselves in the best situation we could by getting the number one seed out of District 4,” said Laxdal. “The team that plays the best three games next week is going to win it.”
Cavalier plays the third game against Thompson next Monday in the opening round of the regional tournament.