Boys Basketball: Byron nips Z-M 51-47 in 1AA West semifinals
Lance Mortland had some modest success in the first half for Byron in the Section 1AA West semifinals on Wednesday. But with the game on the line, the junior deliver in the second half.
Mortland drained four 3-pointers in the second half to help top-seeded Byron post a narrow 51-47 victory over No. 5 Zumbrota-Mazeppa in boys basketball.
Mortland took advantage of open looks as Z-M used a triangle-and-2 defense in an effort to slow down Jack Nelson and Buster Meyer.
"That was our game plan," Z-M coach Fred Liffrig said. "We couldn't let Nelson and Meyer beat us."
Enter Mortland, a 6-foot junior guard. He was a modest 2-for-8 shooting the first half, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. Z-M knocked down four 3-pointers in the opening 18 minutes and went to the half tied 21-21.
But the Bears had enough of an inside-outside game, headed by Mortland, in the second half.
"During practice we were practicing against the triangle-and-two," Mortland said. "They left me open the first half and I figured they would again."
Mortland made his first three 3-pointers of the second half. The third put Byron (23-4) up 41-38 with 9:54 left. The game was close the rest of the way, but Byron never trailed again.
"I started following through more the second half and they started dropping," Mortland said.
Mortland finished with a career-high 17 points to pace the Bears.
"I thought the more he played the better he got," Byron coach Kerry Linbo said. "He relaxed more when he got away from the ball."
Brandon Schubert, a lanky 6-foot-6 senior, also gave the Bears a strong inside presence. Z-M did not have anyone that matched up well with him. Schubert made 7 of 11 shots and finished with 15 points. He also blocked five shots and had five rebounds.
"I thought Schubert also stepped up," Linbo said. "He's got to keep being aggressive."
"We knew this Mortland kid could shoot, and Schubert hurt us in the post," Liffrig said. "It was their typical high-low (offense)."
Guard Lucas Ziemba kept Z-M in the game with a game-high 18 points. He had 12 in the second half and made a pair of 3-pointers in each half. Nathaniel Rauen chipped in with 11 points.
Rauen hit a big three with 19.1 seconds left to cut Byron's lead to 49-47. But Nelson (11 points, 13 rebounds), who had earlier missed the front end of two one-and-ones, hit two free throws with 16 seconds left to seal the win.
"Jack missed two earlier," Linbo said. "He's a senior and a leader. We need those, but he knocked them down when he needed to."
Byron will now face Lourdes in the 1AA West finals at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Mayo Civic Auditorium.
Byron 51, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 47
No. 5 ZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA (47)
Lucas Ziemba 18, Nathaniel Rauen 11, Kurt Gadient 8, Kevin Niebuhr 7, Tyler Quam 1, Sam Edwards 0, Ellis Hirman 0, Cody Krueger 0, Jacob Ugland 2.
No. 1 BYRON (51)
Andrew Root 0, Buster Meyer 6, Brandon Schubert 15, Jack Nelson 11, Tyler Coble 2, Lance Mortland 17, Cody Baumbach 0, Evan Richardson 0, Rick Brown 0, Michael Carl 0.
Halftime:BYR 21, ZM 21.
Free throws:ZM 7-10, BYR 5-13. Field goals:ZM 16-46, BYR 20-45.
Three-point goals:Z-M 8 (Ziemba 4, Gadient 2, Rauen 1, Niebuhr 1), BYR 6 (Meyer 1, Mortland 5).
Turnovers:ZM 7, BYR 8. Rebounds:ZM 27 (Niebuhr 6, Rauen 5), BYR 35 (Nelson 13, Schubert 5).