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Chris Murphy, Published January 15 2013

Otters top Spuds in boys bball for first time in over 8 years

MOORHEAD – Who says coaches don’t care about numbers?

Coming into Tuesday’s game, Fergus Falls boys basketball coach Dave Rund was well aware his squad hadn’t topped the Spuds in nearly nine years, going 0-18 during that stretch.

“I looked that up before I came here tonight,” Rund said moments after the Otters knocked off Moorhead 60-57. “We had 29 turnovers in our last game and we did a terrible job of executing. Tonight, we executed what we do in practice in the game. Although seven straight turnovers wasn’t in the game plan.”

Fergus Falls’ 26 turnovers allowed the Spuds to get back into the game.

A silence came over the crowd as 3-point attempts from Moorhead’s Austin Nelson and Aaron Lien traveled through the air in the final five seconds.

But both rimmed out as time expired and Fergus Falls – which never trailed in the game – had its first win over the Spuds since Feb. 24, 2004, after leading by as many as 16 points in the second half.

Mike Millard wasn’t even a teenager the last time the Otters defeated the Spuds. But on Tuesday night, his 17 points and 10 rebounds made the difference for Fergus Falls.

“We just came to play our hardest and to be taken seriously,” Millard said. “To hold onto the lead for that many minutes is more mentally tiring than physically.”

After taking a 31-25 lead into the second half, Fergus Falls (7-5) opened the final frame with a 10-0 run. A 3-point play by Millard made it a 41-25 game just less than three minutes into the second half.

That’s when Lien took over.

Moorhead answered with a 20-6 run behind Lien’s 13 points during the rally to make it a 47-45 Fergus Falls lead with 6:47 to go. The Otters answered with a 7-0 run to make it a 54-45 game with 2:24 left.

Moorhead’s Cody Dorow buried a 3-pointer and a layup off a Lien steal, and Brett Lawrence drained a jumper on a Dorow steal. That made it a 54-52 Otters’ lead with 1:04 seconds left.

After both teams traded baskets, Austin Rund made two free throws to give the Otters a 58-54 lead, but Lien answered with a 3-pointer to make it a 58-57 game with 23.5 left.

Isaiah Lemke hit two free throws for Fergus Falls with 16.7 seconds left, and two Moorhead (7-5) 3-pointers rimmed out to seal it.

“We’ve been in situations where we’ve let it slip away, but today we made free throws, sucked it up and got stops,” Rund said. “This was tournament-type atmosphere, and that’s the kind of battle you’re going to have to win in the playoffs if you’re going to survive. Teams will come back and to be able draw on this experience down the line is big.”

The Spuds hope to draw from this experience that a game has two halves, not just one.

“We couldn’t score, and we couldn’t shoot the ball in the first half,” Moorhead coach Corey Zimmerman said. “We were settling for a lot of shots, and we just thought we were going to show up. You have to play hard from the get-go and be ready to go. We need to learn a game is 36 minutes, not 18.”

M (7-5): Dobbins 1 0-0 2, Lien 6 11-13 24, Nelson 3 0-0 8, Lawrence 4 3-5 11, Dorow 5 1-2 12.

F (7-5): Johnson 5 0-0 10, McAllister 3 0-0 8, Millard 7 3-6 17, Rund 3 3-4 11, Lemke 1 4-4 6, Pearson 2 0-0 6, Gaworski 0 2-2 2.

Half: F 31, M 25. 3-point goals: Nelson 2, Lien 1, Dorow 1, McAllister 2, Rund 2,Pearson 2. Total fouls: M 17, F 15. Rebounds: M 17 (Lien 6), F 31 (Millard 10, Rund 9). Turnovers: M 10, F 26.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548