Champlin Park boys basketball is currently the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A, but the Rebels (4-0 Northwest Suburban North Conference, 7-0 overall) didn’t have an easy week.
After building a 20-point lead in the second half, things got a little scary for Champlin Park Feb. 2 at Armstrong. The Falcons not only cut into the lead, but they actually tied the game twice and almost took their first lead of the game.
In the end, however, the Rebels went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line with 1 minute, 18 seconds to go. Senior guards Josh Strong, Dylan Gichaba and Adrian Mogaka and senior forward Francis Nwaokorie all were 2-for-2 at the line during the final stretch that gave Champlin Park a 64-59 win.
The Rebels’ lead was 26-21 in the first half, but a 7-0 run made it 33-21 at halftime. Mogaka scored inside, and senior forward Darian Hoek nailed a 3-pointer on a pass from Strong. Strong closed the half with a basket after an Armstrong turnover.
Junior forward Ayo Taki started the scoring in the second half on a pass by Nwaokorie, and Strong followed with a 3-pointer to make it 38-21.
Senior guard Robert Feahn added two baskets later, one on a pass by Strong, and the lead was now up to 42-23.
Strong added a basket with a foul, but he missed the free throw. Still, that score put Champlin Park up 20, 44-24.
Junior guard Peyton Newbern and senior guard D’Sean Larkins knocked down a layup and a 3-pointer to cut the Rebels’ lead to 44-29, but baskets by Nwaokorie and Strong helped keep Champlin Park up 17.
The lead was whittled away to nine, but Nwaokorie added a couple of free throws and a basket inside to make it 52-39. After a 3-pointer by senior guard Josh Ruedenberg, Mogaka scored to keep the lead at double digits, 54-42.
But Armstrong didn’t give up. The Falcons went on a 14-2 run to tie the game at 56-56 and nearly took a lead with a missed layup when the game was tied 54-54.
But the free-throw line proved to be the difference with Armstrong missing the front end of two 1-and-1 opportunities down the stretch, and the Rebels getting to the line four times without any misses.
Champlin Park led 8-4 early before going on an 11-0 run to take a 19-4 lead in the first half.
Strong hit a 3-pointer, and he hit Gichaba inside for another basket.
Taki had an offensive putback, and Gichaba scored again on a pass by Nwaokorie. Strong followed with a steal and a pass up the floor to Nwaokorie, who dunked the ball to make it 19-4.
Armstrong cut into that lead, however, with a 17-7 run before the Rebels closed the half strong.
Nwaokorie led Champlin Park with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and a steal, and Strong added 16 points, nine assists, three steals and three rebounds.
Gichaba and Mogaka had 10 and nine points, respectively. Gichaba and Hoek added two steals each.
Senior forward Dylan Inniger led the Falcons with 22 points, and senior guard D’Sean Larkins added 14. Ruedenberg had nine.
Champlin Park 66, Blaine 54
The Rebels remained undefeated Feb. 5 with a 66-54 win over Blaine.
Champlin Park led 30-25 at halftime and closed the game out down the stretch.
Gichaba had 27 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals. Strong collected 20 points, six steals, three rebounds and three assists, and Mogaka had nine points, six rebounds and four assists.
Nwaokorie chipped in eight points, 11 rebounds and two steals.