Maple River survives in 2AA final
Mar. 17—MANKATO — Last season, Maple River got to the Section 2AA championship game, only to run into Glencoe-Silver Lake and a 29-point game by its best player.
On Friday, in the section championship game at Bresnan Arena, the Eagles were watching Minnesota Valley Lutheran's Benjamin Pearson make almost every shot he took, trailing by three at halftime.
"I really never thought about (last year)," Maple River coach Chad Ostermann said. "At the end, he wasn't even shooting. He was just throwing it up, and they were going in. It was surreal.
"But to overcome that kind of performance, I'm just so proud of these kids."
Maple River played a strong second half to hold off MVL 75-71 to win the Section 2AA championship Frriday at Bresnan Arena.
Pearson got MVL off to a good start, making his first four 3-pointers to make it 13-5. Pearson hit two more 3-pointers as the lead grew to 23-12.
Maple River started taking advantage of MVL turnovers late in the half, scoring 11 straight points. Mason Schirmer had three drives to the basket, two coming off steals.
Benjamin Halvorson hit a 3-pointer and layup as MVL led 32-29 at halftime.
MVL, which had a 20-game winning streak, led 50-46 after Pearson made four more 3-pointers to start the second half.
"I told the guys with about seven minutes to play, that to win the section, every team has to overcome some obstacle," Ostermann said. "We were in foul trouble, but we kept fighting and coming right back at them. We had to persevere, which made it so special."
Hayden Niebuhr had five points as the Eagles ran off 11 straight to open a lead. Maple River led 72-62 with 37 seconds to play before Pearson hit three 3-pointers to get within two, but Aaron Pawlitschek made two free throws to clinch the victory.
Pearson ended up with 46 points, making 13 3-pointers, which ties the sixth-best single game in state history.
Schirmer had 24 points, and Niebuhr scored 23 points with eight rebounds. Aaron Pawlitschek scored 15 points, making 10 free throws.
Maple River (29-2) will play in the Class AA tournament, which begins Tuesday.
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.