By Joe Tischler Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — Mankato West found itself down by 10 points late in the first half against Worthington in the Section 2AAA boys basketball semifinals on Saturday at Minnesota State’s Taylor Center.
Sophomore Jake Dale led a late first half charge, and freshman Jake Makela sparked a second half surge that helped put the game away as West advanced to the section championship game with a 80-71 win over the Trojans.
Worthington built a first half lead behind senior guard Marcus Potter. He scored seven of his team’s 10 points in an early spurt to give the Trojans a 14-8 lead. Potter finished with a game-high 27 points.
Later on, West’s Matt Braun hit back-to-back deep 3s to tie the game at 20. Worthington countered with a 13-3 run to go up 33-23 with 2:20 to go in the first half.
Tyler Stoffel drained a 3 from the top of the key to start a Scarlets 11-2 run to end the half and West trailed 35-34 going into the break.
“We kind of just weathered the storm,” West coach Tom Boone said. “We got a couple run outs on them at the end. I think the biggest thing was getting stops.”
A Braeden Myers drive and score 1:15 into the second half put West up 37-36 giving them their first lead since they led 4-2.
Dale then took over scoring eight of the Scarlets’ next 12 points as West extended their lead to 49-45.
“He had some good looks early, but some of them weren’t going in,” Boone said. “We just know we have to keep feeding him and give him opportunities to score. He’s a tough player. I’m glad I don’t have to stop him.”
Dale scored 14 of his 24 points in the second half.
West led 60-54 with nine minutes left before Makela put the finishing touches on the win. The freshman did not score prior to his left corner 3 put the Scarlets up nine. After two free throws, he connected on two more 3s, giving West their biggest lead at 71-58 with 6:10 remaining.
“Jake Makela is a beast,” said Dale. “He always comes up with a big play. He’s always making the right play. He never messes up. He always makes good decisions.”
Makela finished with 15 points, all of which came in the game’s final nine minutes.
West moves on to the section championship game Thursday night back at the Taylor Center against top seed Marshall at 7 p.m.