Friday was the Minneapolis boys’ basketball team’s first sub-state semi-final appearance since 2015.
The Lions also had a chance for revenge, as they traveled to Norton’s Stull Gym to take on the Bluejays. Norton had knocked Minneapolis out of the postseason last year.
Minneapolis got their revenge in thrilling fashion, as they came from behind to top Norton, 53-50 and advance to the sub-state final on Saturday.
Norton came out light’s out from 3-point range in the first half. The Bluejays’ Jonah Ruder and Ryan Schrum connected on five combined 3’s to lead to Norton to an early lead.
Meanwhile, the Norton defense played havoc on the powerful Minneapolis offense. The Lions came in averaging 61 ppg as a team and were led by both Nolan White and Spencer Davidson, who both averaged a combined 34 ppg. However, the Minneapolis duo could not get going early, as the Bluejays shut them down.
With Norton leading 18-13 after one, the Jays immediately stretched their lead in the second quarter to double-digits and led 34-23 at halftime.
Minneapolis was able to make some adjustments defensively in the third quarter, but still struggled to score the ball. To that point in the game, the only reliable threat to score for Lions was Trent Moeckel, who was getting in to the paint at will against the Norton defense.
With Norton leading by double-digits, the Lions finally got going offensively. Five straight points by White just before the end of the third, got Minneapolis to within five, 43-38 going in to the final quarter.
The Minneapolis uprising continued as the Lions continued to trim the lead down, little by little. A 25-foot Davidson 3 with 4:20 to go in the game gave Minneapolis its first lead since the first quarter, 46-45. After another Minneapolis bucket, Norton came down and buried their first–and only–3 pointer in the second half by Schrum to tie it up.
White answered with a tough runner in the lane to snag the lead back for Minneapolis. The Lions never again surrendered it as Norton was out of sorts offensively by that point in the game.
With the game in the balance, Moeckel–who had kept MHS alive for most of the game–nailed 11-12 free-throws for the game and four-straight down the stretch to give Minneapolis its largest lead of three.
Norton (14-7) missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game to OT. Ruder and Schrum both led the Jays with 18 points, each.
Minneapolis (15-5) advances to its first sub-state final since 2011 with the win. The Lions came back from a 13 point hole in the third quarter, that they had dug. White had another double-digit game scoring with 15 points, while Davidson had the H&R “Block of the Game.”
For the second game in-a-row for Minneapolis, Moeckel is the game’s Nex-Tech Wireless “Player of the Game.” The Senior tallied a new career-high 19 points on Friday.
With the win, Minneapolis keeps its season and state tournament hopes alive. They play Saturday against the No. 1 seed of sub-state TMP-Marian (19-4) at 5 p.m. back at Norton’s Stull Gym. The winner advances on to the 3A State Tournament.
Live coverage of the Lions and Monarchs is on 92.7 The New Zoo, beginning at 4:45 p.m.
Image Credit: Kandy Constable