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Cromwell denies Tigers trip back to Section 5A title game

Michael Landquist led the Tigers with 22 points against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and 16 points against Cromwell in the Section 5A playoffs. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Nevis' bid to return to the Section 5A boys basketball championship game was denied Monday night as Cromwell-Wright held on for a 55-50 victory at Pequot Lakes in the Section 5A North final.

Nevis, the No. 2 seed in the North and the defending Section 5A champs, advanced to the North title game by defeating No. 3 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 52-39 on March 10 at Pequot Lakes. Cromwell, the No. 1 seed in the North, reached the North final with a 69-55 win over No. 8 Bertha-Hewitt and a 60-55 win in double overtime over No. 4 Browerville/Eagle Valley. Cromwell earned the top seed in the North following a 55-49 overtime victory at Nevis on Feb. 23.

The Cardinals took control early as a pair of 3-pointers by Micah Pocernich and two layups by Cameron Cahoon produced a 10-2 lead before two jumpers and a 3-pointer by Marcus Pocernich made it 19-11 with 8:31 to play in the first half. Layups by Tom Wormley and Zach Henry, a basket off a rebound by Jack Landquist, and a 3-pointer by Michael Landquist led Nevis in the early going.

A 9-0 run gave the Tigers their first and only lead of the game. Michael Landquist hit a jumper and Jack Landquist followed a three-point play with a layup as Nevis led 20-19 with 3:54 to play in the first half. A 3-pointer by Micah Pocernich at the buzzer gave the Cardinals a 24-20 lead at the half.

The start of the second half featured three ties before Cromwell claimed the lead for good.

Luke DeWulf hit a jumper and scored off a rebound and Wormley hit a jumper as Nevis tied the game at 26-26 with 15:46 remaining. After two baskets by Jaden Gronner gave Cromwell a 30-27 edge, Michael Landquist hit a jumper and DeWulf scored off a rebound as the Tigers tied it at 31-31 with 11:47 to play. Michael Landquist followed with a jumper as the game was tied at 34-34 with 9:49 left.

Cromwell responded with a 13-4 run to produce the biggest lead of the game. Micah Pocernich hit two 3-pointers and Cahoon hit a pair of jumpers as the Cardinals led 47-38 with 3:19 to go.

Nevis made a late run as a layup by Michael Landquist, a 3-pointer by Caden Kramer, a layup by Henry, and a layup and 3-pointer by Dylen Spain-Brist cut the gap to 53-50 with :08 remaining before Micah Pocernich hit two free throws with :05 showing to seal the win.

Micah Pocernich, who scored 31 points in Cromwell's playoff win over B-H and 18 points in the win over B/EV, scored 20 points while Cahoon added 16 points and nine rebounds as the Cardinals advanced to the Section 5A championship game against Hinckley-Finlayson with a 14-game winning streak and a 23-6 record.

Michael Landquist's 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals led Nevis. Jack Landquist added 11 points, six rebounds and two assists while DeWulf had six rebounds. Henry contributed four assists and two steals for the Tigers, who conclude the season with a 23-6 mark.

"It was a disappointing way to end an era for our seniors as were were unable to make the plays we needed to get the job done," said Nevis head coach Scott Kramer. "We had a number of opportunities to take the lead and take control of the game, but you have to credit Cromwell as they hit some big shots and benefitted from some of our miscues. I am extremely proud of the guys for how they have worked and all they have achieved this season and for our seniors in their careers."

NEVIS: DeWulf 3 0-0 6, Henry 2 1-2 5, J. Landquist 3 5-7 11, M. Landquist 6 2-4 16, Wormley 2 0-2 4, Kramer 1 0-0 3, Spain-Brist 2 0-0 5. Totals: 19 (FG), 8 for 15 (FT).

CROMWELL-WRIGHT: Ma. Pocernich 3 1-2 8, Mi. Pocernich 6 3-4 20, Shelton 1 0-0 2, Gronner 2 2-4 6, Cahoon 6 4-7 16, Karppinen 1 0-0 3. Totals: 19 (FG), 10 for 17 (FT).

Halftime: Cromwell 24, Nevis 20. Three-pointers: M. Landquist 2, Kramer 1, Spain-Brist 1, Ma. Pocernich 1, Mi. Pocernich 5, Karppinen 1. Team fouls: Nevis 17, Cromwell 12. Fouled out: M. Landquist, Wormley.

Tigers top Wolves

After splitting games during the regular season, Kramer expected another battle with the Wolves in the Section 5A North semifinals.

The Tigers (who split games with W-H-A earlier this season, winning 58-54 at Walker on Jan. 9 and losing 59-50 at home on Feb. 2) battled to a 26-21 halftime lead before taking control in the second half despite missing 16 free throws.

A 3-pointer and layup by Michael Landquist, a layup by Henry and a jumper by Wormley gave the Tigers a quick 14-6 lead with 9:00 to play in the first half.

After a jumper and 3-pointer by Nathaniel Armstrong cut the gap to 14-13 at the 6:42 mark, a jumper and 3-pointer by Jack Landquist, a 3-pointer by Michael Landquist, and a layup by Wormley pushed Nevis' advantage to 25-15. Koby Taylor responded with a 3-pointer as W-H-A cut the gap to 26-21 at the half.

Two baskets and a 3-pointer by Michael Landquist and a layup off a steal by Jack Landquist gave the Tigers a 38-26 advantage. Cole Rasmussen hit a jumper to make it 38-30 with 6:10 to play. W-H-A would manage only a 3-pointer by Armstrong at the 2:57 mark over the next five minutes.

Nevis wasn't able to take advantage of the Wolves' scoring drought as 13 missed free throws provided only a 46-33 cushion. Edgar Anderson connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to slice the deficit to 46-39 with :52 left before Michael Landquist and Jack Landquist combined to hit six free throws in the final :46 to seal the win.

Michael Landquist's 22 points and five rebounds and Jack Landquist's 17 points and four rebounds led the Tigers. Henry dished out three assists while DeWulf had two assists and two steals.

Armstrong scored 16 points as the Wolves end their season at 17-11.

"We were out to avenge our earlier loss to Walker at home in a game where we just didn't get the job done. We knew our primary focus had to be on Armstrong and his ability to score inside and out. We were able to get that done as we used DeWulf and Henry to chase him all night and force the other guys to beat us. It worked as no other player had double figures for them," said Kramer. "Our team defense was as good as it has been all season. We could have ended any chance of a comeback for them by making free throws, but we shot only 20 for 39 from the line to leave them within striking distance."

W-H-A: Anderson 2 0-0 6, Rasmussen 2 2-2 6, Taylor 1 0-0 3, Nelson 3 2-2 8, Armstrong 5 3-5 16. Totals: 13 (FG), 7 for 9 (FT).

NEVIS: DeWulf 1 1-4 3, Henry 1 0-6 2, J. Landquist 3 10-15 17, M. Landquist 6 7-10 22, Wormley 3 2-4 8. Totals: 14 (FG), 20 for 39 (FT).

Halftime: Nevis 26, W-H-A 21. Three-pointers: Armstrong 3, J. Landquist 1, M. Landquist 3.