Rounding into form: Braaten's 29 leads Byron past K-M 70-50 in Section 1AAA quarterfinals
BYRON – Early in the season, Byron basketball was rudderless. They needed a captain. They needed thatguy.
They would look around the room and eventually, everyone’s eyes would settle on Jake Braaten.
He’s their best and most complete player. But Braaten didn’t want to be selfish. He’s never been one to force the issue and take bad shots.
But his teammates told Braaten that they wanted him to be that offensive force. They needed him to take his fair share of the shots if they wanted to be successful.
Braaten has taken the baton and ran with it. The junior guard poured in 29 points to lead the fourth-seeded Bears to a 70-50 win over No. 5 Kasson-Mantorville in the Section 1AAA quarterfinals.
"The second half of the season, he’s taken it upon himself to be much more assertive and aggressive," Byron coach Kyle Finney said. "He’s just gone off by storm. He’s averaging 20 or 21 points over the last 10 games or so."
It’s not like Braaten is taking any bad shots either. He’s efficient and he’s scoring at all three levels. He torched Kasson-Mantorville’s defense for 20 first-half points. He drained five 3-pointers and got to the charity stripe eight times.
"I was trying to do everything for this team," Braaten said. "I want to rebound, play defense, score. We moved the ball well on offense tonight which was the key."
Braaten has never considered himself to be a deadeye long-range shooter, but the five 3-pointers speak for themselves.
"I’m just stroking it right now," Braaten said. "I shoot a high percentage but I don’t shoot a lot of them. They have to guard every aspect of my game now."
Braaten scored 15 of Byron’s first 18 points. His trey gave the Bears an 18-8 advantage. K-M trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, but sophomore point guard Jordan Klepel knocked down two 3-pointers to trim Byron’s lead to 11 at 37-26 at the half.
"That’s kind of our MO," K-M coach Nick Pocius said. "We’re gritty. We’ve been able to get ourselves out of holes. That’s fight."
But Braaten and Byron didn’t let K-M get any form of momentum in the second half. Braaten scored seven of Byron’s 11 points to start the second half, and then he got in on the fun with an alley-oop to 6-foot-8 junior center Ahjany Lee.
Lee’s thunderous slam gave Byron a 31-point advantage, and the Bears cruised to the Section 1AAA semifinals. Lee finished with 10 points and three monster blocks.
K-M (11-16) was led by senior Jordan Kern who popped off the bench and scored 12 points. Klepel, Camden Holecek and senior Alex Jennissen all chipped in eight points.
"We came off a four-win season last year," Pocius said. "This year we have 11. I think the future is going to be very bright for Kasson-Mantorville basketball."
Byron (16-11) will play at top-seeded Austin on Saturday, March 7 at 7 p.m.
"We’ve been battle-tested throughout the year," Finney said. "We play in a tough conference and we have a tough non-conference schedule. The kids have been in some close games. We’ve been in the downside of some and the topside of others. Playing that tough competition prepares you for the postseason."
Byron 70, Kasson-Mantorville 50
Carter Nelson 2 P; Jordan Kern 12 P; Jerron Sandeno 2 P; Easton Knoll 5 P; Camden Holecek 8 P; Mason Flom 2 P; Tyler Wohlfiel 3 P; Jordan Klepel 8 P; Alex Jennissen 8 P.
Jake Braaten 29 P, 5 3-PT; Tyler Underwood 2 P; Travis Underwood 4 P; Easton Hulke 6 P; Ahjany Lee 10 P; Jaxon Marine 6 P; Trent DeCook 7 P; Carter Wilde 2 P; Ryan Hough 4 P.
Halftime: BYR 37, KM 26.
Free throws: KM 10-12, BYR 11-24.
Three-point goals: KM 0, BYR 5.
No. 1 Austin cruised into the Section 1AAA semifinals with a 78-44 romp over No. 8 Red Wing. Okey Okey knocked down four 3-pointers and scored 20 points. Moses Idris scored 19 points and ripped down 13 rebounds.
Agwa Nywesh added 15 points and six rebounds, while Emmanuel Manyuon became the fourth Austin player to crack double figures with 14 points.
Red Wing got 15 points from Denval Atkinson and finished the 2019-20 campaign at 3-24.
No. 1 Austin 78, No. 8 Red Wing 44
RED WING (44)
Ben Kuehni 5 P, 1 R, 1 3-PT; Deso Buck 0 P; DonTray Johnson 12 P, 10 R; Reese Tripp 2 P; Henry Davig 0 P, 3 R; Cooper Chandler 4 P, 3 R, 1 3-PT; Denval Atkinson 15 P, 2 R; Andrew Ball 6 P, 1 R.
Okey Okey 20 P, 2 R, 4 3-PT; Teyghan Hovland 2 P, 4 R; Pierre Lilly 2 R; Emmanuel Manyuon 14 P, 1 R, 3 3-PT; Agwa Nywesh 15 P, 6 R, 3 3-PT; Moses Idris 19 P, 13 R, 1 3-PT; Ochan Obany 3 P, 1 3-PT; Lero Oman 2 P, 2 R; Tony Ciola 1 R; Ethan Owens 1 R; Jacob Venenga 3 P, 1 3-PT.
Halftime: AUS 40, RW 16.
Free throws: RW 8-12, AUS 7-9.
Three-point goals: RW 2, AUS 13.