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Chris Murphy, Published March 11 2013

Otters headed to section championship game with 70-60 win

MOORHEAD – Fergus Falls forward Mike Millard was tired of hearing complaints about him never dunking in a game. With 77 seconds left in the Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 boys basketball semifinals at the Nemzek Fieldhouse, Millard picked a good time to throw down in a game for the first time. It wasn’t flashy and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but just like the Otters’ 70-60 win over Alexandria, it got the job done.

“It was pretty shaky,” said Millard about his dunk, which accounted for two of his game-high 28 points to go along with eight rebounds. “I was pretty tired, but I knew that a lot of people would want to see it. I knew it was now or never. I did it more for the fans than anything. I was just hoping I could get up there. I didn’t want to get stuffed by the rim. It was an indescribable moment.”

Apparently no one told Fergus Falls it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, because the Otters never trailed Alexandria in their third win over the Cardinals.

“We talked about this basketball game being a 15-round bout,” Fergus Falls coach Dave Rund said. “We just wanted to keep delivering blows because we knew we were going to have to take one. We felt the more blows we could take from them and survive, eventually we’d wear them down and I think that’s what happened.”

Fergus Falls opened the game with a big blow in a 14-4 run behind six points from Millard. The closest Alexandria got to the Otters in the first half was seven points, as they took a 32-22 lead into the break. The lead in the second half for the Otters varied between eight and 15, as they were on cruise control.

“We came out firing and it was a team effort,” said Fergus Falls forward Austin Rund, who finished with 17 points. “We knew this was going to be a heavyweight, head-to-head title. It was going to be Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. We came out firing and it went well for us. We’re playing our best basketball right now and that’s when it counts.”

Although Fergus Falls never trailed, it certainly wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“It is hard to beat a team three times in a season and our team was fully aware of that,” Millard said. “We all got psyched up before the game, we prepared, we knew what we had to do, we came out and played our hardest and good things happened.”

For the second straight season, Fergus Falls heads to the sectional championship game. The Otters will take on Sartell at St. Cloud State University at 6 p.m. Thursday and are looking for a different outcome than last season. The Otters are hoping for their first state berth since 2004.

“We’re going to be more focused this year,” Millard said. “We’ve been there, it isn’t a new feeling and hopefully it’s a different outcome with a lot of returning players.”

F (18-10): Reinertson 0 1-2 1, McAllister 2 1-2 5, Millard 9 10-13 28, Rund 6 4-4 17, Johnson 3 0-0 6, Pearson 1 1-2 4, Gaworski 2 0-0 4, Lemke 0 3-5 3, Hansen 1 0-0 2.

A (13-13): Bistodeau 2 2-3 7, Krivanek 7 0-0 16, Vogeler 4 3-3 14, Kohler 1 0-0 3, Doyle 1 7-8 9, Gorghuber 3 4-5 10, Deitz 0 1-2 1.

Half: F 32, A 22. 3-point goals: Rund 1, Pearson 1, Krivanek 2, Bistodeau 1, Vogeler 3, Deitz 1. Total fouls: F 19, A 19. Rebounds: F 21 (Millard 8), A 19 (Doyle and Vogeler 6). Turnovers: F 14, A 15.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548