MINNEAPOLIS - North Woods boys basketball players looked around at each other on Thursday, almost dumbfounded when asked the last time one of their games didn’t end in running time.
It had been so long, nobody knew.
That running time streak continued as junior guard Cade Goggleye scored 23 points and the Grizzlies steamrolled to a 74-36 victory over Heritage Christian Academy in the Class A high school state tournament quarterfinals at Williams Arena.
Second-seeded North Woods (30-1) advances to play third-seeded Cass Lake-Bena (30-1) in a semifinal at 2 p.m. today at Target Center. Even though the Grizzlies finished runner-up last season, coach Will Kleppe said this team plays with the proverbial chip on its shoulder.
“We still felt like underdogs,” Kleppe said. “There aren’t a lot of representatives down here from the north, so we still feel we have that role, even with the expectations this season. We hadn’t even played a game yet, but people were saying we were going back to state. There is never a guarantee, and I think the boys believe that firmly.”
It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the victory over Heritage Christian (13-18), a team that was clearly overmatched in speed and skill by the Grizzlies, which Eagles coach Tim Herman frankly acknowledged.
“I’m not sure, did we get beat out there? I can’t remember the score,” Herman said, drawing a laugh in the postgame news conference. “The last Cinderella has died. Go get ’em, North Woods.”
Running time kicks in when a team goes up by 35 points.
Kleppe believes all North Woods games have had running time since the Grizzlies’ lone loss of the season, 77-54 to Virginia on Feb. 15.
Kleppe isn’t expecting any like that the rest of this tournament.
“This game offered us the opportunity to get everybody in, but I don’t anticipate that’s going to happen (again),” Kleppe said. “Nothing is easy when you get down here, but they know the work that needs to be done and the focus they have to have as we continue on in the tournament. I couldn’t be any happier with them.”
Chase Kleppe added 18 points for the Grizzlies and Trevor Morrison had 15, with both those players converting easy inside baskets whenever the Eagles dared to press. But making it all go is Goggleye, one of four returning starters from last year who have helped North Woods outscore opponents by 42 points per game this season.
Senior Ben Allen had 11 points and five rebounds to lead Maple Grove-based Heritage Christian, which was making its state tournament debut.
“Goggleye is probably the best player we’ve seen all year,” Allen said. “Just his ability to shoot from everywhere and control the game. He runs the game well, like a point guard should.”
This one was effectively over shortly after the opening tip, when Goggleye came out acting like he was ready to drop another 62 points as he did in the season opener. Goggleye, who drained a half-court buzzer-beater last time he was on this court in the 2017 state quarterfinals, drained his first three 3-pointers Thursday as North Woods took an 11-2 lead four minutes into the contest.
“I’m happy it didn’t have to come down to that again,” Goggleye said, referring to his tiebreaking shot against Central Minnesota Christian. “It was nice to see the ball go into the hole. I had a rough section tournament, so this was definitely a confidence booster.”
Goggleye laughed when being asked if he tried any half-court heaves in warmups.
“I would have gotten yelled at,” he said.
Morrison has gone from 10 minutes a game last year to an impact presence inside for the Grizzlies. At 6-foot-4, he has a nice combination of size and soft hands.
Morrison, just a fresh-faced sophomore, is still of few words publically. He drew a laugh afterward when he summed up his offensive role in one sentence.
“Cade just drives and drops it down to me, and all I have to do is put it in the hole,” Morrison said.
Heritage Christian 15-21-36
North Woods 33-41-74
Heritage Christian Academy - Ben Allen 11, Phil Berge 2, Taylor Brodersen 2, Seth Halvorsen 8, Evan Jacobson 2, Jonny Flynn 6, T.J. Guggenberger 5. Totals 13 7-11 36.
3-point goals - Flynn 2, Guggenberger.
North Woods - Cade Goggleye 23, Brendan Parson 2, Tate Olson 6, Chase Kleppe 18, Trevor Morrison 15, Darius Goggleye 2, T.J. Chiabotti 3, Tanner Lokken 5. Totals 27 12-17 74.
3-point goals - Goggleye 4, Olson 2, Kleppe, Chiabotti.