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Tom Mix, Published March 09 2012

ND Class A Boys: Red River tops Mandan to advance to title game

FARGO – Credit Grand Forks Red River’s defense with preventing Mandan from making back-to-back comebacks at the North Dakota Class A state boys basketball tournament.

The Roughriders held the Braves to 32 percent shooting in a 69-55 win over West Region top-seeded Mandan during the semifinals at the Fargodome.

Mr. Basketball finalist Mack Arvidson keyed Red River’s offense, leading all scorers with 21 points.

“I thought we played great,” Arvidson said. “Our main focus coming in was rebounding and playing defense and our offense came. … That was one of our best games of the year for sure. We played well in the first half and continued it in the second half.”

Top-ranked Red River (22-2) advances to its first title game since 1970. The Roughriders play the Wahpeton/Fargo Shanley winner in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. today.

Red River went on an 8-0 run late in the first half and led 31-19 at halftime. Mandan’s Mr. Basketball finalist Devin Coyle was held to four points in the first half and finished with 13 points.

“We knew we had to defend against their key players,” Red River coach Jason Gregory said. “That was a big part of our key emphasis. We also have a player like John Hoplin standing in the middle who can help not so much block the shots all the time, but he’s there to affect the shots, which makes us a little more aggressive defending on the perimeter.”

Coyle and Aaron Janz combined for nine 3-pointers in its overtime comeback win against West Fargo in the quarterfinals, but the Braves were 4-for-24 from beyond the arc Friday. Coyle was 1 of 11.

Red River opened the second half on a 19-4 run and led by as many 25 points.

“They did a great job of defending us and taking us out of our comfort zone,” Mandan head coach Jason Horner said. “We let them do whatever they wanted to do. We didn’t go hard to set screens, we didn’t come hard off screens. … It was frustrating.”

When the Braves tried to press, the Roughriders responded with a press offense. With Mandan defending hard, Red River used precision passing that often ended in uncontested layups.

“We like to run up and down the court and get some easy baskets,” said Hoplin, who finished 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Mandan (18-6) went on an 8-0 run late, but it was too little too late. Mandan plays the Wahpeton/Fargo Shanley loser in the third-place game at 3:30 p.m. today at the Fargodome.

Erron Collins paced the Braves 16 points and Seth Westby added 12.

MANDAN (18-6): Collins 6 3-5 16, Coyle 3 6-7 13, Westby 5 1-2 12, Janz 3 1-1 8, Marcellais 1 0-0 2, Wanner 1 0-1 2, Schmidt 1 0-0 2. Totals 20-63 11-16 55.

RED RIVER (22-2): Arvidson 7 5-6 21, Hoplin 5 3-3 13, Farroh 2 5-6 9, Kroeplin 2 4-6 9, Mi. Anderson 2 2-2 6, Kemnitz 1 3-4 6, Bartosh 1 1-2 3, Ma. Anderson 1 0-0 2. Totals 21-38 23-29 69.

Halftime: RR 31, M 19.

3-pointers: Collins, Coyle, Westby, Janz, Arvidson 2, Kroeplin, Kemnitz. Total fouls: M 23, RR 19. Fouled out: Westby. Rebounds: M 25 (Collins, Westby 5). RR 36 (Hoplin 8). Assists: M 4 (Coyle 2), RR 14 (Kroeplin 5). Turnovers: M 6, RR 15.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 451-5651