By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Mankato West got off to the good start it needed, but a veteran Marshall team made enough free throws at the end to survive with a 66-61 victory in the semifinals of the Section 2AAA boys basketball tournament Saturday at Bresnan Arena.
The Scarlets didn’t trail in the first half, jumping out 14-5 and taking a 26-23 lead into halftime, courtesy of Braeden Myers’ three-point play in the final seconds.
“We executed very well early, and we got some easy buckets against their press,” West coach Tom Boone said. “But we knew that Marshall was going to make some runs. They’re a good team, well-coached.”
The No. 2-seeded Tigers were able to go up nine midway through the second half, but the Scarlets kept coming back. Jake Dale scored on a layup with 2:50 to play that cut the lead to 57-55. Austin Majeskie’s 3-pointer pulled West within 61-58. Majeskie later made three free throws to make it 64-61.
But each time, Marshall made the free throws that were necessary to advance.
“We got off to a slow start (in the second half), but we fought back,” Dale said. “We learned that there are always ups and downs, and you just have to keep fighting. You have to stay aggressive.”
Dale scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Majeskie had 11 points. Carter Burmeister had six points and four assists.
For Marshall, Austin Saugstad had 15 points, one more than Aaron Mathiowetz. Both are seniors.
West, which finished 16-10, had only two seniors on the roster, giving Boone an optimistic outlook for the future.
“It was good for our young guys to play under the lights here and get that experience,” Boone said. “We played against a good opponent, and we had a chance to win. With the guys we have coming back, I’m very excited about the next couple years.”