MINNEAPOLIS — By the time Southeast of Saline’s boys found an answer to Thomas More Prep-Marian’s size, it was almost too late.
Even so, the Trojans went down fighting.
Southeast cut a 15-point third-quarter deficit to two with 6.5 minutes left but were unable to sustain the momentum as No. 1 seed TMP pulled away late for a 58-52 Class 3A sub-state semifinal victory Thursday night at the Minneapolis High School gym.
“The kids played hard,” said Southeast coach Jeff Wells, who saw his Trojans end their season with an 11-10 record. “We got in trouble at the start of the third quarter where they started to bury us pretty deep in the post.
“They’re a very solid basketball team. But I’m very, very proud of my guys’ effort and they didn’t quit.”
Southeast trailed by as many as 11 points late in the first half before getting it back to 23-16 at the break on a Jaxson Gebhardt free throw and Jake Huffaker 3-pointer. But TMP (16-5) opened the third quarter with an eight-point run that stretched it to 31-16 on a Creighton Renz putback.
That’s when the Trojans began clawing their way back by taking the ball straight at TMP big men Renz and Michael Lager. Southeast made 9 of 10 free throws in the period to cut it to 38-31 heading into the fourth.
“They had a couple of big guys and their defense is good,” Wells said. “We told the guys that they had to attack the rim off the dribble.
“I thought Nick Montgomery did a nice job in the second half attacking the basket. We finally adjusted late in the third quarter and got back in it.”
A Montgomery 3-pointer — one of just two in the game for Southeast — and two Damon Douglas free throws to open the fourth quarter got the Trojans within two. But TMP went inside to the 6-foot-4 Lager and converted a Southeast turnover into a Luke Ruder layup for a six-point cushion.
A Tate Garcia corner jumper and Ryan Karlin’s 3-pointer with 5:11 left pushed it to 47-38, and Southeast got no closer than six the rest of the way.
For TMP, which faces No. 2 seed Ellsworth at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for the sub-state title, Lager led a balanced scoring attack with 12 points, plus grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Garcia and Renz each added 10points, with Trenton Mayo and Karlin contributing eight each.
Montgomery had 19 points and White 18, combining for 25 in the second half, to lead Southeast. White also had 11 rebounds as the Trojans finished with a 32-28 advantage on the boards.
“We wanted to keep the game in the 50s and I thought we did a good job in that area,” Wells said. “I thought our defense was pretty solid overall.
“We just missed a couple of shots where if they would have (gone down) it would have changed the ballgame. But hats off to TMP, they made their free throws at the end and we just couldn’t get over the hump.”