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Prep boys basketball: North Woods' improbable postseason run continues

MINNEAPOLIS — Cade Goggleye was a little closer to the basket this time.

A day after his half-court bomb beat the buzzer — and the Central Minnesota Christian boys basketball team — in the opening round of the Class A state tournament, the North Woods sophomore coolly knocked down two free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining to propel the Grizzlies past Goodhue 51-49 in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center.

Fifteen feet vs. 50? Goggleye liked his chances. He had more time to think than he did before banking in his “Shot Heard ’Round Cook” on Thursday, which made its way onto ESPN’s SportsCenter. What was going through Goggleye’s mind?

“I was thinking either we’re going to the state championship or the third-place game,” he said.

For the unseeded Grizzlies (31-1), it’s the former. They meet high-powered and defending champ Minneapolis North at 11 a.m. today, back at Target Center. It will mark the first Class A final with a Section 7A entrant since Nashwauk-Keewatin in 2004.

North Woods has played nothing like a state-tournament newcomer. Similarly, the Grizzlies seem oblivious to the fact that their roster has just one senior. They’re not supposed to be the team oozing poise in tight games at Williams Arena or Target Center. But they have been. Even Friday, when leading scorer Goggleye didn’t register his first point until midway through the second half, and when 6-foot-4 inside catalyst George Bibeau spent more than eight minutes on the bench in foul trouble, North Woods hardly flinched.

“These guys are hard to rattle,” Grizzlies coach Will Kleppe said. “Us coaches rattle easy, but the kids are very hard to rattle.”

Tate Olson fits that mold. The junior lefty’s outside shooting triggered Thursday’s comeback, and he kept gunning Friday. He led all scorers with 20 points and was 6-of-9 from 3-point land, many of which were NBA-range attempts. Olson’s sixth 3, which came during North Woods’ game-turning 11-1 spurt, forged a 41-41 tie. The Grizzlies’ lead would reach 48-42.

“I felt good,” Olson said. “I was getting in a rhythm and it started to flow.”

It was then that the second-seeded Wildcats (29-4) rallied. They drew even at 49-49 on Sam Opsahl’s layup with 1:44 to play. From there, North Woods drained the clock, Goggleye doing the bulk of the ball-handling, until he was fouled in the waning seconds. Kleppe has called Goggleye his quiet floor general, and there was a pervasive feeling that the youngster would make at least one from the line.

He made ’em both.

Goodhue, runner-up a year ago, advanced the ball to midcourt and called timeout. The Wildcats inbounded from the sideline, and Jacob McNamara got a clean, straight-on look, but it bounced off the back of the rim, prompting the Grizzlies’ second emotional celebration in two days.

“It should have never come down to that final shot,” Goodhue coach Matt Halverson said, lamenting what he called an uncharacteristically sloppy first half.

McNamara, a big guy who benefited from Bibeau’s second-half absence, led the Wildcats with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He was the primary reason Goodhue amassed a 22-11 rebounding advantage after the break, a sore spot that could have stopped this Cinderella run for the Grizzlies.

But this is a confident bunch that, perhaps because of their youth, simply doesn’t know any better.

“Tournament history is full of these kinds of things, where a relatively unknown makes a run,” Kleppe said.

Brendan Parson added 13 points for North Woods, and Goggleye had nine, plus five assists. The Grizzlies, who have won 18 in a row, took their first lead, 13-12 about nine minutes in, on a beautiful pick-and-roll from Goggleye to Bibeau, the team’s lone senior.

The challenge after Thursday was getting the Grizzlies back to Earth. Every time they turned on a TV, there was Goggleye’s heave. They went out to eat afterward, and Kleppe said players talked about everything but basketball. Friday morning, they had their team shootaround at the University of Northwestern. By then, it was business as usual.

North Woods, which led 26-24 at halftime, turned the ball over just four times.

Another massive challenge awaits today. Top-seeded Minneapolis North is 31-2, with the two losses against Class AAAA powers Apple Valley — playing for a state title today — and Hopkins.

“We’re going to prepare like we do for every other game,” Kleppe said. “We’re going to put the matchups together, we’re going to make a plan and we’re going to do our best to go in there and execute it.

“It’s a formidable task, but I think these guys are very happy with getting the opportunity to go there, and we’re going to treat it like every other game — albeit it’s a state championship game.”

North Woods 26-25—51

Goodhue 24-25—49

North Woods — Tate Olson 20, Brendan Parson 13, Cade Goggleye 9, George Bibeau 4, Trevor Morrison 5. Totals 16 13-19 51.

3-point goals — Olson 6.

Goodhue — Lucas Thomforde 3, Taylor Buck 5, Nicholas Thomforde 4, Ben Opsahl 13, Jacob McNamara 16, Sam Opsahl 8. Totals 17 10-19 49.

3-point goals — L. Thomforde, Buck, N. Thomforde, McNamara, S. Opsahl.