Boys Basketball: Third time a charm for Rangers
DULUTH—Jonathan Jacobson said it best: "Are you kidding me?"
While the context of that statement was for a different question, it encapsulated the feelings of most everyone wearing maroon and white Saturday night on the campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
That's because the No. 2-seeded Crosby-Ironton Rangers punched their ticket to the Class 2A state tournament with a 52-46 victory over the top-seeded Esko Eskomos in the Section 7-2A championship game. It will be the 21st state trip for the Rangers and the ninth for Rangers head coach Dave Galovich.
"It's never going to be perfect," Galovich said of the win. "But I thought it was a pretty good effort by our guys."
--- --- --- --- ---
C-I 52, Esko 46
- Key: The Rangers built a 28-17 halftime lead and hung on
- Overall: CI 28-2, E 26-4
- Next: No. 3-seeded Crosby-Ironton vs. Breckenridge in Class 2A state quarterfinals, Williams Arena, Minneapolis, 8 p.m. Wednesday
--- --- --- --- ---
So what was Jacobson, a sophomore forward, referring to? At the free throw line, with 1:02 remaining, Jacobson sank the first of two free throws to hand C-I a 47-41 lead. Jacobson's second attempt was delayed, though.
"The one kid (from Esko) was staring at me and he said, 'You're not going to make these' and I knew I was so I said, 'Are you kidding me? These were going in,'" Jacobson said. "So I just gave him a little stare down and I knew I was going to bury it."
The most unassuming-looking basketball player on the floor drained his second shot. It was the fourth of four Jacobson made to give C-I a six-point lead.
It wasn't unfamiliar territory for Jacobson, who sank two key free throws the last time these teams met Feb. 28.
"They gave us a good run in the second half, but we hung together as a team," said C-I senior Noah Gindorff. "We didn't get down on each other. We knocked down our free throws when we had to. Jonathan, to come up in that moment and knock those free throws down, that was absolutely huge for us.
"We're ready to roll now. It's on to the next game."
That has been the trend for the Rangers all season as each of the five starters stepped up in a big way at key spots.
Evan Edmundson finished with 13 points, eight in the second half, but his lone 3 in the second half pushed the Rangers' lead to 37-29 and induced an Esko timeout with 8:37 to play.
Jack Silgen scored 10 points, six in the second half, as the Eskomos caught the Rangers a bit off guard by coming out in a 2-3 zone to start the second half.
"I couldn't believe it, but that's really a credit to coach (Mike) Devney," Galovich said. "He's one who will adjust and adapt and make good game decisions. It did catch us off guard because we would be in our normal spots and normally you turn and look and you got something pretty good at the basket, but now there is 7-foot-3 down there. It does pose a significant problem and even if we knew they were going to play a zone, you can't simulate their zone."
But the Rangers weren't unprepared. Silgen, a 6-5 senior point guard, went to the elbow and created his own mismatch.
"We've played against a lot of teams that have gone zone, but I didn't exactly expect it out of them, but we can get good looks against a zone, too," Silgen said.
While C-I's defense held Esko to 40-percent shooting in the first half, the Eskomos hit 12-of-24 in the second, including 5-of-12 from 3-point. Bryce Bottila scored all 10 of his points in the second half and Isaak Blue and Camden Berger each scored six second-half points to cut C-I's lead to 48-46 late.
But Trey Jacobs hit his final basket for his team-high 18, and Edmundson and Gindorff each sank a free throw for the final score.
"This win is phenomenal," Silgen said. "It's absolutely amazing to finally come out at the end of the year with the win."
Saturday was less dramatic than C-I's come-from-behind 58-55 overtime victory over Esko Feb. 28, but that win gave the Rangers the confidence they needed to knock off Esko again. Saturday's win snapped the Eskomos' state tournament streak at four straight and erased last year's 42-25 loss to Esko in last year's section final.
"I think (the earlier win) was a big factor, especially being down like we were, by 18 in each half and then making the comeback," said Galovich. "It probably opened their eyes a little bit. It made them realize that we could play with them because they're a little different team than most we face."
Like he did in Thursday's semifinal, senior Trey Jacobs got the hot hand early as he scored 13 first-half points on 5-of-6 shooting, including 3-4 from 3-point. His final 3 of the half handed C-I a 28-12 advantage before Esko scored the final five points of the half.
"They had to pick and choose who they wanted to defend and he got open looks and we got him the ball and he did a great job of knocking them down," Silgen said of Jacobs.
Gindorff neutralized Adam Trapp early until the 7-3 junior tallied a team-high eight points late in the half.
"You can never be out of position," said Gindorff. "You always have to be working. We preached the whole week about the defensive game plan against him. He's a heck of a player, but we had a great game plan coming in.
"We just couldn't afford to take any positions off. It was a full team effort. We had guys helping in all the time. We got the job done."
Trapp finished with 12 points, while Gindorff scored five.
"This is the definitely a great moment," Gindorff said. "After losing a couple different times, to come in here and win like this, my senior year, with these boys, there is no better feeling in the world."
Esko 17 29—46
Crosby-Ironton 28 24—52
Ryan Pantsar 3, Bryce Bottila 10, Sam Rengo 3, Isaak Blue 8, Camden Berger 10, Adam Trapp 12. FG 20-44 (45 percent), FT 0-3 (0 percent). 3-point 6-18 (33 percent).
Jack Silgen 10, Evan Edmundson 13, Trey Jacobs 18, Jonathan Jacobson 6, Noah Gindorff 5. FG 17-41 (41 percent), FT 11-19 (58 percent). 3-point 7-19 (37 percent).