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Tom Mix, Published March 09 2013

Red River secures state Class A boys basketball tournament berth with win over Wahpeton

FARGO – Two of the top three scorers on Grand Forks Red River’s boys basketball team did not make a field goal in Saturday’s state-qualifying game at the Bison Sports Arena.

Under that scenario, one might gather the No. 1-ranked Roughriders would be ripe for a defeat and left without a berth in the North Dakota Class A state tournament next Thursday in Bismarck, right?

Wrong.

Less than 24 hours after being upset by West Fargo in the East Region semifinals, Red River topped Wahpeton 54-50 to keep its season alive.

While seniors Mac Kroeplin and Matt Anderson went a combined 0-for-16 from the field, junior Chad Bartosh picked up the slack scoring 22 points – 20 of which came in the second half – in the victory.

“I had to be in a groove to get the seniors into another state tournament,” Bartosh said.

The Roughriders (20-2) will be the No. 3 seed from the East at the state tournament and will play the West Region’s No. 2 seeded team at 3:45 p.m. in the quarterfinals on Thursday at the Bismarck Civic Center.

It is Red River’s second straight trip to the state tournament and 16th in program history. The Roughriders are the defending champions in Class A.

Red River trailed Wahpeton 21-17 at halftime, but the Roughriders made their push in the second half.

“They really turned up the defensive pressure,” Wahpeton head coach Jeff Ralph said. “Early in the second half, I thought we handled it OK, but then they turned it up further. We got on the back of our heels a bit, turned the ball over and Chad Bartosh went off on us in the second half.”

Red River senior point guard Blake Kemnitz got a layup to fall with just under 10 minutes left in regulation, giving the Roughriders a 34-33 lead. Kemnitz’s bucket marked Red River’s first lead of the second half and it stuck the rest of the way thanks to Bartosh.

Bartosh scored eight of Red River’s next 11 points and after the 6-foot-2 guard hit a pair of free throws with 4:08 left to play, the Roughriders enjoyed a 45-38 advantage.

Foul trouble kept Bartosh off the court much of the first half, but Red River head coach Jason Gregory knew much of the Roughriders’ hopes of a comeback rested with the team’s second leading scorer.

“At halftime we told him, ‘you got to take this over, you got the freshest legs out here,’ ” Gregory said. “He did exactly that, whether it was shooting a 3-pointer or going hard to the basket. He had a great game.”

Red River senior post John Hoplin had 13 points, six rebounds and seven blocks in the victory.

“Our intensity picked up a lot,” Hoplin said of the comeback. “Coach tried to calm us down (at halftime). We needed to relax. We were only down by four points and we knew what we had to do.”

Parker Sirek scored 13 points to lead the Huskies. Wahpeton ends its season 9-13.

WAHPETON (9-13): Sirek 4 2-2 13, Nelson 3 4-7 10, Lunneborg 4 0-0 10, Irwin 3 1-2 8, Meyer 2 1-3 5, Christensen 2 0-0 4. Totals: 18-52 8-15 50.

RED RIVER (20-2): Bartosh 9 4-5 22, Hoplin 5 2-4 13, Kroeplin 0 8-16 8, Kemnitz 2 2-2 6, Anderson 0 3-4 3, Robson 0 2-2 2. Totals: 16-54 21-33 54.

Halftime: W 21, RR 17. 3-pointers: Sirek 3, Lunneborg 2, B. Irwin, Hoplin. Total fouls: W 22, RR 14. Fouled out: Nelson. Rebounds: W 37 (B. Irwin 10), RR 33 (Kroeplin 7). Assists: W, 6 (Lunneborg 3), RR 7 (Kemnitz 6). Steals: W 3 (Christensen 2), RR 4 (Kroeplin, Kemnitz 2). Turnovers: W 13, RR 8.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562