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Eric Peterson, Published March 13 2012

Ada-Borup boys knock off Ulen-Hitterdal in section semifinals

MOORHEAD – Building an early 13-point lead proved to be a lucky start for the Ada-Borup Cougars at Memorial Auditorium.

The Cougars raced to a double-digit lead less than nine minutes into the game Tuesday. That start helped vault Ada-Borup to a 64-42 victory against Ulen-Hitterdal in the Minnesota Class 1A, Section 6 boys basketball semifinals.

Ulen-Hitterdal beat the Cougars twice in the regular season.

“I think we came out more intense, came out ready this time,” said Ada-Borup junior Joel Merkens, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“We usually start slow and that was our downfall but tonight we came out strong and got off to an early lead.”

The Cougars (22-5) won the North subsection title with the win. Ada-Borup plays Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (29-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Concordia for the section championship.

“It means we’re practicing (today) and that’s where we wanted to be,” said Ada-Borup head coach Trevor Stewart.

Ulen-Hitterdal (23-7) saw its season come to an end. The Spartans defeated the Cougars 48-40 in January and 62-53 in February. Ada-Borup turned the tables in March.

“It was a rough one,” said Ulen-Hitterdal coach Brett Maass. “I thought we were ready. I thought we were prepared. … The bottom line is we just didn’t play well tonight, but I give Ada-Borup a lot of credit.”

The Cougars scored 16 consecutive points early in the game to build a 17-4 lead. Senior guard Jace Hennen capped that run scoring a basket with 9 minutes, 50 seconds remaining in the first half.

Hennen scored eight points and the 6-foot-4 Merkens added seven points during that strong opening stretch.

The Cougars took a 5-4 lead after a Merkens putback with 13:52 to play in the first half and never trailed from that point.

“We just had to get a lead on them and made them be a little impatient,” said Stewart. “I think once we got the lead that played a part into some of their mistakes.”

The Spartans clawed back into the game early in the second half. Ulen-Hitterdal trimmed the Ada-Borup lead to 38-34 after junior guard Neil Henrickson drained a 3-pointer with 12:50 to play.

The Cougars countered with a 15-1 surge to seal the victory. Merkens had seven points during that key stretch.

“We played smart,” Stewart said. “We stuck to the defensive game plan very well. We didn’t vary from it and we did a good job of boxing out.”

ULEN-HITTERDAL (23-7): Henrickson 6 2-2 17, Schultz 2 0-0 5, T. Peterson 3 0-1 7, Brooks 2 0-2 4, Lien 1 0-0 2, McCollum 3 1-3 7, C. Peterson 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 3-8 42.

ADA-BORUP (22-5): Atwood 2 0-0 4, Hennen 7 6-10 22, Blasey 3 3-6 9, Ambuehl 2 2-5 7, Merkens 5 6-8 16, L. Ruebke 1 0-0 2, Fetting 2 0-0 4, Kappes 0 0-0 0, M. Ruebke 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 17-29 64.

Half: AB 32, UH 20. 3-point goals: Hendrickson 3, Schultz, Peterson, Hennen 2, Ambuehl. Total fouls: UH 22, AB 10. Fouled out: Hendrickson, Brooks. Rebounds: UH 26 (T. Peterson 6, McCollum 6), AB 26 (Merkens 10). Turnovers: UH 17, AB 6.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com