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Published March 21 2012

Spuds drop quarterfinal at state boys basketball tournament

MINNEAPOLIS – Finding the right shot wasn’t the issue. Neither was finding the right shooter.

Getting the shots to fall was the problem. The Moorhead boys basketball team stayed within two points in the last two minutes. But with familiar shots not falling when it mattered most, it was enough to help No. 2 seed Lakeville North pull out a 61-55 win on Wednesday in the Class 4A quarterfinals of the Minnesota state boys basketball tournament at the Target Center.

“We had the shots we wanted,” said Spuds coach Corey Zimmerman. “Austin (Nelson) was in the corner and Aaron (Lien) had a shot from the low block. Those were shots that were going in earlier.”

Moorhead (18-10) took a 29-26 halftime lead after Nelson went a perfect 4-for-4 on 3-pointers.

Then that’s when Lakeville North (29-1) relied on Tyler Flack, who was an all-metro third team selection this season.

Flack went scoreless in the first, but scored eight points and pulled down five rebounds to jump-start his team.

“He’s just so athletic, and if you get it to him near the basket, he’s a dynamic player,” said Panthers John Oxton, who is a Fargo North graduate. “At times, he kind of stands around a little bit too much, but when he’s active, he’s as good as anybody.”

It wasn’t just Flack as Tyler David scored nine points in the second half, helping Lakeville North get a bit of breathing room at times.

Those two along with Grant Erickson and Ryan Saarela helped the Panthers fend off open attempts from Nelson and Lien that didn’t go in within the last two minutes of the game.

Saarela, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Erickson hit clutch free throws down the stretch to cement the win.

“We were thinking the whole way through the week when we were scouting them that we matched up with them,” said Nelson, who scored 14 points. “They are kind of like us. With two minutes left we thought we could do it.”

Moorhead, which made its 22 state tournament appearance this season, does have positives heading into next season.

Nelson and Lien, who scored a game-high 15 points, return next season, giving Moorhead two of its starting five back.

Moorhead does lose five seniors, including reserves Erik Bye and Hayden Anderson.

“You know you have pieces to build around in Aaron and Austin,” said Zimmerman, who is in his third year at Moorhead. “It’s just about finding pieces to build around them. We’re going to look like a different team for sure next season.”

MOORHEAD: Ellingson 4-11 1-2 11 Lien 5-14 4-4 15 Nelson 5-6 0-0 14 Roesler 0-2 0-0 0 Bosche 4-8 0-3 8 Dorrow 0-0 0-0 0 Bye 1-4 1-2 3 Anderson 1-1 2-2 4 TOTALS: 20-46 7-10 55

LAKEVILLE NORTH: Oxton 1-3 0-0 2 Saarela 5-9 3-4 13 Erickson 4-4 3-4 11 Heid 1-6 4-4 7 Rasmussen 2-6 5-7 9 Shockley 0-0 0-0 0 Creighton 0-0 0-0 0 David 3-4 1-2 9 Flack 3-14 1-2 8 Newell 1-2 0-0 2 TOTALS: 20-48 17-23 61

Half: M, 29, LN 26. 3-pointers: M, Nelson 4, Ellingson 2, Lien 1, Bye 1. LN, David 2, Heid 1, Flack 1. FOULS: M, 16 LN, 12 Rebounds: LN 32 (Saarela 13), M 25 (Bosche 8).

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com