The Big Lake Hornets traveled to Princeton on Friday, March 10 for the Section 5 3A semifinal against St. Francis. It was a tough matchup for the Hornets all season as the Saints got the better of them for the third time this year.
Big Lake led by one at the break, but the offense went cold in the second half. St. Francis outscored the Hornets 34-13 in the second half and won 66-46.
It took a bit of warming up for the Big Lake offense to get going. They scored
just six points in the first four minutes, on two Isaiah Terlinden (11) threes. The junior got the start and scored a team-high 12 points. “He did everything we asked him and more,” said Critchley on Terlinden. “He was the most aggressive on defense and it carried over to offense.”
With 12:30 left in the first half, Owen Wilczek (9) came off the bench and drilled a three to bring Big Lake to within four.
The back-and-forth continued with guard Trevor Maruska (11) scoring four quick points on back-to-back possessions. After a Maruska trip to the line and a layup, the Hornets trailed 15-13. After Big Lake corralled an offensive rebound, Wilczek got his second three of the night to go and tied the game at 18.
With 6:26 to go in the half, St. Francis led 23-20 despite University of North Dakota commit Matthew Bothun being held to just four points. Carson Kunz (12) tied the game with an old-fashioned three-point play with 5:57 to go. Kunz battled for an offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt.
About a minute later Kunz gave Big Lake their first lead with another putback.
The Saints retook the lead 20 seconds later with a three.
With 92 seconds on the clock, Terlinden tied the game at the line. Then Mitchell Hill (12) pulled up from long range with 10 seconds left in the half and gave the Hornets a 33-32 lead at the break. Big Lake got a lot of their scoring done inside the arc and kept Bothun to just 8 points after 18 minutes.
But Bothun and the Saints went to work in the second half. St. Francis opened the half with an 8-0 run and who else but Terlinden finally stopped the bleeding for Big Lake. With 14:20 on the clock, Terlinden scored a layup off an easy drive through the lane.
That 8-0 run was the beginning of the end for the Hornets however as the momentum swung all the way in the Saints’ favor. “They got ahead and they pulled it out and the game became slow,” said Critchley. “They want it in the 60s and we want it in the 70s and 80s and we just couldn’t get the pace going.”
The teams play contrasting styles and in the end, the Saints’ physicality won out. Big Lake put a ton of energy into trying to slow down Bothun and it harmed the Hornets in other areas. All that energy spent on slowing Bothun hurt their ability to rebound, limiting their chances to get out and run.
Big Lake’s offensive struggles continued after Terlinden’s bucket. With just under nine minutes remaining Wilczek hit a tough shot to bring the Hornets back within 10, 51-41. About a minute later Big Lake dipped their hands into the cookie jar and came up with a steal that ended up in free throws for Terlinden. He made both foul shots and off the inbounds, the Saints tried to outlet pass it deep downcourt, but Maruska did his best Harrison Smith impersonation and intercepted the pass. That ended in an Owen Layton (11) transition three to cut the deficit to five, 51-46.
Those were the last points Big Lake scored however as the Saints spent the last five minutes of the game burning clock as time ran out on the Hornets. A 15-0 run to end the game clinched the victory for St. Francis and a date with Princeton in the section final. Bothun scored 11 points in the second half and finished with 19.
Hill thought that St. Francis’ defensive gameplan got them out of rhythm, “I’d say they figured out what to do on the defensive end. They didn’t let the shooters shoot. They stopped penetration and we couldn’t really figure anything out tonight,” said Hill. “Usually, our game is inside-out and we weren’t able to get that tonight.”
They played their hearts out until the end and gave great effort despite the outcome getting a little lopsided in the final minutes. Big Lake finished their season 17-10 led by their four seniors; Kunz, Hill, Kade Layton and Braeden Badeaux. Layton was limited to just seven games this season due to an ankle injury.
“Our seniors have been here three years and all your teams are special, but this group is extra special,” said Critchley. “Because they did everything that we asked of them. They trusted us coaches and we’ve grown as people together… I looked forward to every second I spent with them. I want to thank them for that because it was a very special group to me. Watching Mitchell and Carson really grow as players. Braeden off the bench was phenomenal. He did everything that we asked. Unfortunately, we didn’t get Kade. I feel bad for him because you don’t get do-overs in life. You only get one senior year and it would have been great to have him out there because he’s a great kid too.”
It’s a great crop of seniors, but Big Lake is bringing back plenty of talent next year. Maruska (11) was second on the team in scoring. Owen Layton (11) brings back a knockdown shooter. Wilczek (9) brings height, length, and scoring ability. Terlinden (11) and Aidan Johnson (11) bring grit to the frontcourt. Connor Stukenholtz (11) is a guard who was able to find some run despite a roster that was deep in backcourt depth.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.