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Tigers survive Pirates, advance to section final

Michael Landquist scored a game-high 15 points in leading Nevis to a 41-37 win over Verndale in a Section 5A playoff game Tuesday night. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

In the first three games of the Section 5A tournament, opponents of the Nevis boys basketball team slowed down the tempo.

That strategy led to three low-scoring games, but in the end the Tigers prevailed all three times to earn a trip to the Section 5A championship game.

The Tigers, the No. 1 seed in the North half of the section and the No. 2-rated team among Class A teams, advanced to the Section 5A final for the second time in the last three years with a hard-fought 41-37 win over No. 3 Verndale Tuesday night at Pequot Lakes.

Nevis, which opened the section playoffs with a 60-31 win over No. 8 Menahga and a 51-35 victory over No. 5 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley, was pushed to the end against Verndale before Michael Landquist's steal and two free throws with :08 remaining sealed the win.

"Michael was the difference as he was able to score inside and hit two big free throws off of a steal late to ice it," said Nevis head coach Scott Kramer, whose team lost to Verndale 46-40 in last year's section tournament. "You just had to know that our defense would make a stop to decide the game."

Nevis and Verndale battled to the end in a postseason game for the second year in a row.

Nathan Sabinash's three-point play gave the Pirates their largest lead of the game at 16-11 with 7:33 to play in the first half. Sabinash opened the game with a pair of inside baskets and Max Schluttner hit a 3-pointer for the Pirates while Griffin Chase hit a jumper and a 3-pointer and scored off a rebound to lead Nevis. Landquist also had two layups in the early going for the Tigers.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Andrew Dudley, a layup by Jack Landquist, and a jumper and layup by Michael Landquist gave Nevis a 23-22 lead at the half.

Verndale opened the second half with a three-point play by Sabinash and two free throws by Jordan Brownlow to take a 27-23 lead before a layup by Tom Wormley and two 3-pointers by Chase gave Nevis a 31-27 advantage. The Tigers would not trail again, even though Verndale would remain within striking distance.

Another 3-pointer by Dudley and a layup by Michael Landquist made it 36-31 with 9:44 to play. Michael Landquist's layup kept Nevis in front 38-34 before a 3-pointer by Brownlow pulled the Pirates to within 38-37 with 3:51 remaining.

A free throw by Michael Landquist with 44 seconds left provided the only scoring the rest of the way until Michael Landquist's steal led to the game-clinching free throws.

Michael Landquist scored a game-high 15 points while Chase finished with 13 points as the Tigers extended their winning streak to 22 games in a row to improve to 27-1 on the season. The 27 wins break the school record for victories in a season. The old record of 26-4 was set by the 2014-15 team. Chase also had eight rebounds and two steals while Zach Henry had four rebounds. Wormley blocked five shots and Michael Landquist led the team with two assists while adding two steals.

Sabinash was the only player in double figures with 13 points for the Pirates, who end the season with a 21-7 record.

"Verndale gave us everything they had throughout, as we expected they would. We handled them early in the year, but we knew that with 12 seniors that Verndale would come out and play with a sense of urgency," said Kramer, whose team defeated Verndale 74-47 on Feb. 14. "It was a dogfight to say the least as the officials really let the guys play, which really took a lot of the rhythm out of the game. There were very few uncontested shots and the play down low was physical. Our defense was as stingy as ever, especially in the second half. Unfortunately, they were containing us as well. We were able to forge the lead and held on late."

Nevis played Browerville/Eagle Valley Friday night at Wadena for the Section 5A title. The Tigers were looking to earn a state trip for the second time in school history after advancing to the state Class A tournament in 2015.

VERNDALE: Schmitz 1 0-0 2, Weniger 2 0-0 4, Schluttner 1 0-0 3, Brownlow 2 2-2 7, Sabinash 5 3-4 13, Ta. Willis 3 0-0 6, Ty. Willis 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 (FG), 5 for 6 (FT).

NEVIS: Dudley 3 0-0 9, Chase 5 0-0 13, J. Landquist 1 0-0 2, M. Landquist 6 3-4 15, Wormley 1 0-0 2, Henry 0 0-0 0, Kramer 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 (FG), 3 for 4 (FT).

Halftime: Nevis 23, Verndale 22. Three-pointers: Schluttner 1, Brownlow 1, Dudley 3, Chase 3.