By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
ST PETER —
Maple River had a possession at the end of regulation that could have won Thursday’s game, but the Eagles never got a shot. In the first overtime, a late shot was contested and came up short.
Third time was the charm.
“The play was designed to get a look inside,” senior guard Ben Larson said. “Either Michael (Lewis) would drive, or we’d try get it inside to our big guy. They had been collapsing all night and Michael made a great kick out. It felt pretty good coming out.”
Larson’s 3-pointer with three seconds remaining in double overtime gave Maple River a 62-61 victory over St. Peter in an intense nonconference boys basketball game between two top-five Class AA teams at the St. Peter gym.
“It was a great high-school basketball game,” St. Peter coach Kelly Raymond said. “We’re kind of clones of each other, and there was a lot of back-and-forth.
“I thought the last team with the ball would probably win, and their kid made a great shot. The fans got their money’s worth.”
By the time the teams got to the second overtime, there were no longer any secrets. Josh Peymann hit a reverse layup to put St. Peter up, but Zach Krengel answered from the lane.
Peymann scored again on a baseline pullup with 15 seconds to play, but the Eagles again had the last-shot opportunity. Lewis drove the middle but was cut off, and he found Larson on the left wing. He had another 3-pointer in the first overtime that could have ended the game, but this one was perfect.
“Ben is one of the better shooters in the area,” Maple River coach Chad Ostermann said. “Michael made a great decision, and Ben hit it.”
Maple River and St. Peter are the top teams in Section 2AA, and both squads have a lot of hope for the upcoming boys basketball playoffs. In a full gym, with passionate fans in all seats, the teams didn’t disappoint all night.
In the first half, Peter Kruize and Tommy Steidler combined for 16 of the Saints’ 23 points, while the Eagles had eight different players total 27 points.
Kruize was tough early, helping the Saints move ahead 12-7, but the Eagles answered with a 20-8 run over nine minutes to grab the lead.
St. Peter regained the lead early in the second half, and the biggest margin came at 49-43 with four minutes to play. But a series of St. Peter turnovers allowed the Eagles to reel off eight straight points to take the lead into the final minute.
Steidler scored the tying basket with 20 seconds, and neither team was able to get a good shot after that.
The game was originally moved up one hour to avoid conflict with the weather, but the earlier start time was also perfect for the teams to play an extra 10 minutes.
Krengel had a post hoop and assisted on Larson’s 3-pointer to open the overtime, but Cody Erickson hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game in the final minute. Kruize’s two free throws tied the game with 30 seconds remaining, and Maple River’s last shot came up short.
Jaron Denn finished with 18 points, and Larson had 11. Krengel managed 10 points and seven rebounds against the taller Saints. Maple River, which had just defeated Martin County West in double overtime on Saturday, made only 11 of 27 free throws.
Kruize had 23 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Saints, who committed 21 turnovers. Steidler added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Peymann finished with 13 points.
“This is a really good win,” Larson said. “We’ve been playing one bad half and one good half, and I thought tonight, we played a whole game.
“This should help us in the playoffs. It was a good morale boost for us.”
Maple River (21-4), the Valley Conference champion, wraps up the regular season Monday with a nonconference home game against Fairmont. St. Peter (20-3) hosts Rocori on Saturday and will play for the South Central Conference championship Thursday at home against Fairmont.
The section pairings will be released Wednesday.
“It was a playoff atmosphere against a great team on their court,” Ostermann said. “Hopefully, this will help us in the playoffs.”