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Eric Peterson, Published February 25 2014

No. 2 Oak Grove tops defending champs

FARGO – North Dakota Class B boys basketball will have a new state champion.

Fargo Oak Grove junior Carter Kretchman scored a game-high 29 points, including a crucial steal and layup in the final minute.

His effort helped lift the No. 2-ranked Grovers to a 74-69 victory against No. 3-ranked Milnor in the semifinals of the Region 1 tournament Tuesday at the Fargo Civic Center.

The Bison (22-2) had their bid for a second consecutive state title ended.

“It was really loud,” said Kretchman, who drained six 3-pointers. “You couldn’t hear your teammates. You couldn’t hear your coaches. It was really intense, sweaty palms. It was just really exciting.”

The Grovers (22-2) are the only team to beat Milnor this season. Oak Grove earned a dramatic 73-72 win at Milnor in late January. Kretchman hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds of that game.

“They’re a great basketball team,” Oak Grove head coach Kyle Card said of Milnor. “They’ve got two of the best players in the state. We are lucky we beat them twice.”

Milnor, which trailed by as many 21 points in the third quarter, rallied late in the game. The Bison cut the Oak Grove lead to 69-65 after senior Wyatt Mund scored a layup with 1 minute, 3 seconds remaining. That basket capped a 12-1 Milnor run.

Moments later, Mund stole an Oak Grove pass, and the Bison appeared in position to cut the lead to one possession. Kretchman, however, quickly got the ball back for the Grovers. The 5-foot-9 guard jumped in front of a cross-court pass and raced to the other end for a layup, which gave the Grovers a 71-65 lead with 50 seconds to play.

“I saw a broken play and the ball presented itself, so I just went for it,” said Kretchman, who also added two free throws with 19 seconds remaining.

“I will take my chances any time with Kretchman and the ball in his hands at the end of the game,” Card added. “I think that’s a huge play. He steps up all the time for us. He did it down in Milnor, and he did it again tonight.”

The Grovers took their largest lead after scoring the first 10 points of the second half. Kretchman scored five points during that stretch and senior Coulton Dangerfield added four points. Dangerfield capped the rally with an inside basket that gave Oak Grove a 53-32 lead with 4:21 to play in the third quarter.

“We thought if we could cut it coming into the third (quarter), and kind of the opposite happened,” Milnor head coach Ben Nelson said. “It got away from us a little bit. You give a quality team like Oak Grove a lead like that and it’s just too hard to come back.”

Oak Grove advanced to Thursday’s region championship. The Grovers will be making their fifth consecutive region title game appearance.

“This game doesn’t mean much if we don’t come back Thursday,” Card said.

Milnor has a 44-8 record in its last 52 games, including a Class B state championship. The 6-foot-4 Mund paced the Bison against Oak Grove with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Senior guard Briton Bussman added 23 points for Milnor.

“I hope they understand how special it is,” Nelson said of his team. “We’ve got four seniors in that locker room that they’ve worked their tails off for a lot of years.”

OG 19 43 59 74

M 16 32 45 69

OAK GROVE (22-2): Kretchman 10 3-5 29, Dangerfield 5 1-2 11, Card 5 0-0 10, Adams 3 3-4 10, Promersberger 2 2-3 6, Olson 2 1-3 6, Teigen 1 0-0 2, Richards 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 10-17 74.

MILNOR (22-2): Bussman 9 3-5 23, Martinson 0 0-0 0, Marlatt 3 0-0 7, Yagow 2 0-0 4, Mund 10 5-5 25, Weber 0 2-2 2, Olsen 4 0-0 8. Totals 28 10-12 69.

3-point goals: Kretchman 6, Adams, Olson, Bussman 2, Marlatt. Total fouls: OG 17, MHS 17. Fouled out: Adams. Technical foul: Olson. Rebounds: OG 28 (Dangerfield 8), MHS 34 (Mund 11). Turnovers: OG 11, MHS 14.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com