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Brian Wierima / Forum Communications Co., Published March 10 2012

Hutchinson leads Lakers in Class 3A, Section 8 basketball

ST. CLOUD – The Detroit Lakes boys basketball team is back to where it finished last season – the Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 championship game.

The second consecutive trip back to the title game was thanks to a 39-point second half, which enabled the North top-seeded Lakers (21-7) to snap a 25-25 halftime tie against the South’s No. 2-seeded Alexandria (10-16) for a 64-52 win Saturday at St. Cloud State University.

“We came out in the second half with more of an intense defense and aggression,” said Detroit Lakes senior guard Joe Mollberg, who led all scorers with 24 points.

That defensive pressure held Alexandria’s 6-foot-7 junior center Logan Doyle in check for 16 points and eight rebounds.

The pressure also forced forward AJ Anderson to the bench early in the second half with four fouls.

“I think we frustrated them a bit with our defense,” Mollberg added. “It all starts with Brian (Labat), who stuck with Doyle all game.”

The late surge was keyed by Mollberg, who had five 3-pointers in the contest, and senior backcourt mate Rick Hutchinson, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half.

“We knew they were good ball defenders, so I just tried to get into the lane and find the open guys,” said Hutchinson, who had two of DL’s eight 3s. “We didn’t get into any foul trouble in the first half, either, so we came out aggressive in the second half.”

Senior guard Derek Long’s lone 3-pointer of the game came at an opportune time, as well, after sinking it early in the second half to put DL up 28-27, a lead the Lakers would not relinquish.

But the Cardinals kept within striking distance up to the 4:12 mark, when Mollberg hit the last of his five 3s to put DL up 56-49.

A goaltending call on Alexandria on DL’s next possession led to a barrage of Lakers free throws to seal the game.

DL went a combined 7-for-9 from the free-throw line in the final 2:35 to keep any Cardinals rally at bay.

DL shot 52.4 percent from the floor, while Alexandria shot 41.7. The Lakers were accurate from beyond the 3-point arc by going 8-for-16, while the Cardinals were a dismal 4-22.

“The big key in the first half was that we were not containing their penetration well, but the guys did a better job of that in the second half,” said DL head coach Robb Flint. “Our defense had active hands and Brian Labat did an outstanding job on Doyle. Our plan was for Brian to not leave Doyle the entire game and he kept him off the boards.”

Flint also credited Hutchinson for finding his shot in the second half, when the Cardinals were keying on Mollberg.

“That’s why we call him ‘Big Shot Rick,’ because he comes up with the big shots,” Flint said.

“They were keying on me a little more in the second half and Rick hit his shots,” Mollberg added. “Brian (Labat) was also a beast down low (with 15 points).”

DL will be heading back to the Class 3A, Section 8 championship game, where it lost last year to St. Cloud Apollo.

The Lakers will await the winner of No. 2 Fergus Falls and No. 4 Sartell. The Class 3A, Section 8 championship game will be Thursday at Minnesota State University Moorhead, starting at 7 p.m.

Half: A 25, DL 25

DL: Mollberg 24; Labat 15; Long 5; McLeod 2; Hutchinson 18.

Alex: Vogeler 6; Doyle 16; Anderson 4; Smith 8; Tanner Rice 8; Bistodeau 1; Storm 9.

Wierima writes for the Detroit Lakes Tribune