Boys Basketball: Patriots draw Albany in state quarterfinals
Pequot Lakes plays No. 2 seed Albany in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals Tuesday, March 21
BRAINERD — Pequot Lakes comes into the Class 2A State Tournament with a chip on its shoulder.
Despite a 19-game winning streak and being the third-best team in the Class 2A state field by Quality Results Formula, the Patriots (25-5) are unseeded and face No. 2 seeded Albany (29-1) in the state quarterfinals 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, at Williams Arena.
“I think we deserved to be seeded,” Pequot Lakes head coach Rich Spiczka said. “In all four classes, the top four teams that are left in the QRF are seeded except for us. In the 2A field, there are only two teams that have two top-five QRF wins in our class and that’s us and Holy Family. They are seeded. We aren’t. I don’t feel like we were justly seeded. If you are going to win the thing you have to beat them all, so what difference does the order make? I just think it’s tough to be out of state in Minnesota. There is not a lot of respect for us.”
The Huskies and Patriots are soon-to-be Granite Ridge Conference foes next year. They played on Jan. 9 with Albany winning 74-52. Pequot owned a five-point halftime lead in that January contest, but the Huskies outscored them 42-15 in the second half.
“To be honest, I think it’s beneficial to play teams we haven’t played,” Spiczka said. “We do things differently on defense than a lot of schools, so when schools haven’t played against us we feel we have an advantage there. Against Albany, we played one of our best halves of basketball followed by one of our worst. We have to play our best basketball and hopefully, we can limit things on their end.”
The Patriots are led by three seniors in Eli Laposky, Grant Loge and Gavin Kennen who all average around 16 points a game.
“We kind of know their personnel,” Albany head coach Cory Schlagel said. “In our first game, the game was way closer than the score indicated. I think both teams are pretty even. Laposky, Loge and Kennen are pretty dynamic. They play pick-and-roll basketball pretty well. Loge and Kennan are long athletes who can score over the top. Laposky has a motor and doesn’t stop. Once he gets inside halfcourt he is ready to shoot it and can knock it down from just about anywhere.”
Laposky, a Bemidji State University commit, shoots 35% from 3-point while he dishes five assists and grabs two steals a game.
Loge, a Concordia-Moorhead football commit, snatches seven rebounds a game while shooting 38% from 3-point at 6-foot-6.
Kennen, a 6-4 forward, plays above the rim and owns a 57% field goal percentage while averaging five rebounds a game.
“Our diversity makes us a little more difficult to guard,” Spiczka said. “Most teams key in on Eli and run him around which allows other guys to step up and be able to execute and do some things. All three players are different, so that diversity helps us.”
Albany is led by senior guard and Minnesota State University Moorhead commit Tysen Gerads. The senior averages 21 points a game for the Huskies.
“He’s a very efficient scorer from all three levels,” Schlagel said. “He can attack the basket, has a good mid-range game and this year he has really improved on shooting the 3. Everything starts with him because he can create a lot of things. He’s so long and not only can he score, but he has games where he gets a lot of assists because he garners a lot of attention.”
Spiczka called the Huskies explosive.
“They can score from a lot of spots,” he said. “They score from all over the place. You have to contain Tysen — he’s pretty bouncy. They have a nice big kid inside. They have a few kids who can shoot it. They have length, strength, size — they have all the features and factors that you want.”
Pequot Lakes reached the state tournament with a come-from-behind victory over Esko in the Section 7-2A Final Friday, March 17. It’s the second straight year the Patriots are headed to state.
“It’s always fun when you are still playing,” Spiczka said. “You want to play for as long as you can. As far as the back-to-back piece goes. We talked at the beginning of the year about how much the group last year accomplished and how it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there. I think in the middle of the season that proved to be true when we got in a little bit of a funk and were not playing our best basketball.”
The funk Spiczka is talking about was back in January when the Patriots lost four straight including a 79-54 loss to Detroit Lakes on Jan. 17. Pequot hasn’t lost since.
“We got just thumped by Detroit Lakes and we had a meeting the next day — kind of a reset meeting about how we needed to move forward,” Spiczka said. “The bottom line was we had to play together. We had four new starters this year and so getting that group playing together — we went to some mass substitution patterns and played with static lineups to try and help that rapport a little bit. Not saying that’s the reason for the 19-game win streak but it sure helped.”
Albany knocked off Milaca for a third time in the season to win Section 6-2A.
The Huskies’ lone loss came Dec. 29 to Holy Family Catholic, who is the top seed in Class 2A.
The other Class 2A quarterfinals include No. 3 seed Plainview-Elgin-Millville playing unseeded Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, No. 4 seed Maple River against No. 5 seed Minnehaha Academy and top-seed Holy Family who drew unseeded Eden Valley-Watkins.
All of the Class 2A quarterfinal games are Tuesday night either at Target Center or Williams Arena.
The Class 2A semifinals are scheduled for Friday, March 24, with the finals being 1 p.m. Saturday, March 25, all at the Target Center.
Class 2A State Tournament
Matchups: No. 1 Holy Family vs. Eden Valley-Watkins; No. 4 Maple River vs. No. 5 Minnehaha Academy; No. 2 Albany vs Pequot Lakes; No. 3 Plainview-Elgin-Millville vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.
Where: Williams Arena and Target Center
Time: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.