Loyola takes tough road to state tournament

Mar. 17—MANKATO — Just three weeks ago, with leading scoring Lawson Godfrey sidelined by a wrist injury, the Mankato Loyola boys basketball was struggling, dropping a pair of games and not looking very interested in either game.

But Godfrey came back for the playoffs, and the Crusaders were whole again.

"I like it when a team has to go through some adversity," Loyola coach Sam Carlson said. "(After losing to Sleepy Eye and Springfield), that was about as crappy as you can feel. But I knew all that mattered was getting here, and we got here and we're going to state.

"Our word all year has been 'grit,' and tonight, it was all about grit."

Simon Morgan had a huge game in the post, helping the Crusaders rally in the second half to defeat Cedar Mountain 63-57 in the Section 2A championship game Friday at Bresnan Arena. It's Loyola's first section championship since 2003.

"At the end of the season, we were a little down and some of the games didn't mean much," Morgan said. "We didn't take advantage of our opportunities, but when the playoffs started, we were able to bounce back."

Godfrey opened the game with a 3-pointer, but Cedar Mountain made two 3s to go ahead.

The game was tied at 11 before Cedar Mountain made a six-point run, taking advantage of Loyola turnovers.

Morgan kept the Crusaders close, dominating the lane. He made a putback to bring the Crusaders within 25-23 with four minutes remaining in the first half, but Cedar Mountain kept draining 3-pointers.

Branndon Pendleton hit a corner 3 to put Cedar Moutain ahead 35-30. Cedar Mountain was 7 of 9 from 3-point range in the half, offsetting 10 points and eight rebounds by Morgan.

Loyola opened the second half with a 12-2 run. Morgan's three-point play put the Crusaders on top 38-37, and his putback made it 42-37.

Cedar Mountain got back even, and it was a one-possession into the final four minutes.

Josh Kann had a string of 10 straight points, including a corner 3-pointer that put Loyola up 53-49. After Cedar Mountain hit a 3-pointer, Loyola scored seven straight, with Lawson Godfrey scoring five.

"We played their game too much in the first half," Carlson said. "We can play fast, but sometimes we turn it over too much. When we're in the halfcourt, we're pretty tough to defend."

When Morgan made a bad decision on an inbound pass with nine seconds to play, Loyola up 5, he capped off his big night with a huge blocked shot to clinch the win.

Morgan ended up with 22 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three blocked shots.

"In the second half, we wanted to go inside," Morgan said. "When they doubled me, I was just looking for cutters."

Godfrey scored 17 points and moved itno third place in team histrry with 1,770 points. Kann had 12 points.

Blake Schueller led Cedar Mountain with 17 points, and Branndon Pendleton had 16 points. Dakota Pendleton Sam finished with 11 points, helping Cedar Mountain make 11 3-pointers.

Loyola (22-8) plays in the Class A tournament, which begins Wednesday.

"I go up (to the state tournament) every year and watch the other teams," Morgan said. "We really wanted it this year, and it's huge to get there."

Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.