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Tom Mix, Published February 26 2013

Milnor outlasts Central Cass in Region 1 boys semifinal

WAHPETON, N.D. – Starting games strong has been the calling card for the Milnor boys basketball team all season long.

Milnor got the good start, but it also needed a crafty finish for a victory on Tuesday.

The Bison scored early and often during its 80-73 win over Central Cass during the semifinals of the North Dakota Class B, Region 1 boys basketball tournament at Ed Werre Arena.

Milnor led 26-4 with 1 minute, 56 seconds left in the first quarter and appeared to be on the brink of cruising into the championship game with relative ease.

“We always seem to get off to that great start,” Milnor head coach Benjamin Nelson said, “I am a little worried if we don’t.”

Milnor (18-6) plays Oak Grove in the Region 1 title game on Thursday 20 minutes following the 6 p.m. third-place game between Central Cass and Maple Valley. The Bison are the first team to advance to the Region 1 championship game since North Sargent in 2009.

The 22-point deficit seemed so big at the time for Central Cass.

“That was a big hole,” Central Cass head coach Mike Kegley said. “They shot tremendously well in the first quarter and we didn’t. Some of that was shot selection, but a big part of it was we got outplayed for a good 10 minutes.”

But for as great as Milnor’s start was, Central Cass did not go down quietly.

The Squirrels (17-7) battled back to make it 37-25 at halftime and got to within one point of the Bison in the fourth quarter.

Central Cass senior Ellery Bresnahan hit two free throws with 4:20 left in regulation to cut Milnor’s lead to 60-59.

Bresnahan finished with a game-high 33 points including six 3-pointers.

“Give our kids credit,” Kegley said. “They fought back into it and that big lead of theirs got cut to 1. We had a few chances with a couple minutes left. I hate that our seniors have to go out on that one. The closer games are always tougher on the heart.”

Milnor junior Briton Bussman wasn’t surprised by the Squirrels’ comeback.

“We knew they are a great team,” said Bussman, who finished with 19 points. We started out pretty well, but we knew they would make their run. We just pulled it out in the end.”

Wyatt Mund paced the Bison with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

“At this point of the season teams are not going to give up,” Nelson said. “Nothing is going to come easy. Our guys have the heart and when it comes right down to it I trust them.”

Garret Ebach added 19 points for Central Cass.

CC 11 25 44 73

M 28 37 53 80

CENTRAL CASS (17-7): E. Bresnahan 10 7-7 33, Nelson 1 0-0 2, Ebach 6 2-2 19, Breske 2 5-8 9, Voss 1 2-2 5, Radermacher 1 0-0 2, Rieniets 1 1-3 3. Totals: 22 17-22 73.

MILNOR (18-6): Knutson 1 0-0 2, B. Bussman 7 4-9 19, Martinson 3 0-2 7, L. Mund 2 4-8 9, Yagow 5 4-4 15, W. Mund 9 10-10 28. Totals: 27 22-23 80.

Halftime: M 37, CC 25. 3-pointers: E. Bresnahan 6, Ebach 5, Voss, B. Bussman, Martinson, L. Mund, Yagow. Total fouls: CC 23, M 15. Fouled out: Breske. Rebounds: CC 34 (Ebach 7), M 45 (W. Mund 12). Turnovers: CC 7, M 12. Assists: CC 10 (E. Bresnahan 7), M 16 (B. Bussman 5). Steals: CC 7 (E. Bresnahan 4), M 4 (four with 1).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562