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Boys Basketball Class AA | Lourdes on a roll heading to state

Boys Basketball Class AA | Lourdes on a roll heading to state
Lourdes high school basketball seniors, pictured from left, are Shane McGrath, Chris Eickemeyer, Adam Lentz, Sam Sloan, Nic Jensen, Joe Fritzjunker and Alex Kapraun.
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After Rochester Lourdes pulled off a massive upset last week, there will be no Eagles shaking in high tops over their first-round state boys basketball assignment.

Lourdes is taking on what may be regarded as the top team in the tournament in Wednesday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinals at Target Center.

That is Long Prairie-Grey Eagle. The Thunder are unranked, like 22-7 Lourdes. However, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (25-4) pulled off something head-turning this season, beating No. 3-ranked Minnewaska in two of three meetings, including knocking it out in its section semifinals.

With the top five teams from the final regular-season state poll all failing to advance to state, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle’s mastery of Minnewaska seems worthy of special attention.

Still, it’s not nearly enough to put a knot in the Eagles’ stomachs. Not after what they pulled off Thursday.


That’s when Lourdes notched one of its most impressive wins in program history, beating No. 1-ranked Plainview-Elgin-Millville 53-49 in overtime in the Section 1AA championship.

This was against the same P-E-M team that had pounded it by 36 points earlier this season.

Yes, Lourdes has come a long ways in 2010-11. And yes, its minds and bodies seem just right as the program is a day away from its first state basketball appearance since 2001-02.

"We have some good momentum going into the state tournament," said Lourdes forward Shane McGrath, who’s been especially impressive in the post-season with his force and quickness around the basket. "We feel good about things. But we are always more focused on the next (game) than anything we’ve done in the past."

Whether the Eagles choose to focus on it or not, their accomplishments these playoffs are worth reviewing.

Above all, they’ve played lock-down defensive basketball, holding back one big scorer after another in cranking out a series of section tournament wins. There was Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Cody Lodermeier being held to 19 points (he had 26 in his last meeting with Lourdes), Byron’s Evan Morris limited to two points (30 their last meeting), and P-E-M 3,000-point career scorer Cole Olstad held to 12 points (36 their last meeting).

No doubt, containing Olstad like that — and more importantly winning the game — left Lourdes feeling like it can not only compete at state but potentially win it.

Lourdes, which got a late start on this basketball season with many of its player having been key cogs on its state championship football team, has evolved the last 3 1/2 months. It’s gone from a group that struggled with turnovers early in the year (as well as shooting), to one that nicely controls the ball and tempo. Add that it controls the boards and other team’s offenses with such ferocity, then its continued lack of pure perimeter shooters doesn’t matter much.


Lourdes has found ways to keep winning anyway. With it, Daly finds no reason to believe that a team loaded with strong, fast, smart and determined players can’t keep that up in the state tournament.

"The most important thing is that we have to defend, we have to limit (the opposition) to one shot and we have to go get the rebound," said Daly, whose team is outboarding its opponents by an average of 26-20 on the season, and has gotten a good share of its offense from its ballhawking defense. "Our kids have done a good job of taking the other team out of their game plan. We have to make shots. But I don’t think we have to shoot super well to win."

Against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, there is no obvious player to focus on. The Thunder are balanced, with three players averaging in double figures, and seven who have twice scored at least 10 points in a game.

Cody Warner is likely their best all-around player, the 6-foot-3 guard averaging 14 points and eight rebounds. The Thunder’s tallest starter is 6-5 center Jake Kingston (12 points, eight rebounds).

Lourdes, with similar height as the Thunder but owning a decided strength advantage, is also balanced offensively. Forward Alex Kapraun scores 13 points per game, while McGrath averages 11. But it was guard Nic Jensen and guard/forward Joe Fritzjunker who came through with the most timely points against P-E-M.

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