Park Center boys basketball fought back twice to push the top-ranked and top-seeded Champlin Park on March 25 in the 5AAAA section final.
The Pirates trailed by 16 points in the second half before retaking a lead, and they trailed by five points with 17.8 seconds to go before tying the game and forcing overtime.
But in the end, Park Center’s season came to a close in a 69-63 loss.
The second comeback started with a 3-pointer by senior Jalen Cook to cut the deficit to 63-61.
A missed free throw on a one-and-one with 7.5 seconds got the ball back to the Pirates, and junior Braeden Carrington drove to the basket and was fouled with 2.3 seconds to go.
After a timeout, Carrington had to hit two pressure-filled free throws, and he drained both to tie the game at 63-63.
Champlin Park missed a shot at the buzzer, and the game was in overtime.
Park Center couldn’t get any offense going in overtime, turning the ball over twice, and the Rebels were able to knock down some free throws to get the win.
Just being in that situation, however, was something that was earned after the Pirates fell behind by 16 points early in the second half.
Cook hit two shots, one being a 3-pointer, and Carrington added two free throws to cut the deficit to 45-36. Junior Ayouba Berthe had a couple of free throws and a 3-pointer, and Cook added an offensive putback and a traditional 3-point play.
Suddenly, the Pirates were trailing 51-46 with nine minutes to go.
Carrington then hit two free throws and a driving layup, and junior Leo Torbor scored inside on a pass by senior Amir Madyun to give Park Center a 54-52 lead.
Cook and Torbor both knocked down two free throws later before the Rebels retook the lead again.
Senior James Parker, Carrington and Cook all scored baskets early in the game to help the Pirates lead 14-5 early, but that lead was erased by halftime.
Carrington had 22 points, and Cook finished with 18. Torbor had eight points, and Parker had six. Berthe chipped in five points.
Seniors Dawson Rudolph (three points) and Leon Oganda (one point) also contributed on offense.
Seniors Kabine Kaba, Sam Salee, Jimmy Ware, Oganda, Madyun, Cook, Rudolph and Parker all closed their high school careers in the loss. They helped lead the Pirates to a 15-6 overall record and their fourth straight section final.
Park Center 66, Mounds View 57
Park Center made the section final with a 66-57 win over 10th-ranked Mounds View March 23 in the section semifinals.
The Pirates had a tough time stopping senior guard Evan Kim, who finished with 31 points, and that led to them trailing 34-31 early in the second half.
Junior Ben Wheeler had a 3-pointer, and Kim hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie Park Center at 30-30. Senior Ethan Farm later scored twice to give the Mustangs a 3-point lead.
But Carrington drained back-to-back 3-pointers and later added a basket and a foul for a traditional 3-point play to help lead the Pirates back in front.
Berthe followed with a 3-pointer, and Park Center led 43-34.
Kim later hit a 3-pointer again to get Mounds back to within three points, 47-44, but Parker scored on an offensive putback and Berthe hit another 3-pointer to push the Pirates’ lead to 52-44.
Carrington closed the game with some free throws and another 3-point play. He finished with 26 points. Cook had 12 of his 17 points in the first half, and Parker and Berthe had 11 and eight points, respectively. Torbor chipped in four points.