OSSEO, Minn. — Moose Lake-Willow River boys basketball coach Wes Cummins found words difficult to express to his team after the Rebels’ season ended at the hands of a superior Minneapolis North team Wednesday at Osseo High School.
“I teach for a living so I talk for a living, and this was one of the only times that I’ve been at a loss for words,” Cummins said. “These guys were seventh graders when I started and we grew up together. We’ve spent the last five years building this program together, and (the seniors) have been a part of that every step along the way. They’re not going to be here anymore. It won’t set in now, it’ll set in tomorrow. It’s a mix of emotions.”
North won 71-40 in a dominating Class AA quarterfinal performance. The Polars (15-1) advance to next week’s semifinals against either Caledonia or St. Croix Prep at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Moose Lake-Willow River, in its first state tournament since its debut appearance in 2005, ended the season at 18-4.
The Polars’ height, quickness and athleticism gave the Rebels trouble all game long.
“We knew we were coming in physically outmatched,” said senior guard Mason Olson, who led the Rebels with 19 points. “We had to do our best to get back on defense and play as hard as we could. We could’ve done a couple things better, but at the end of the day they were a better team than us.”
North sports two 6-foot-7 players in Davon Townley (15 points) and Marcus Owens (14 points), while the Rebels’ tallest regular is 6-3 Brady Watrin.
“I think we negated a lot of that,” Cummins said. “I think we just didn’t shoot the ball well tonight. If we had had an average night shooting, it would have ended up a little closer than it was. I thought we battled and kept up with them.”
Despite making nine 3-pointers, that’s still several fewer than the Rebels usually hit.
“To stay in a game like this, we needed to shoot 40, 50 or 60% from 3,” said Olson, who made a team-best four 3s. “We’ve done that most games, but just couldn’t in this one.”
MLWR never led but stayed close at 13-12 early in the game. From that point on, North controlled the inside and went on runs of 6-0 and 7-0 to take a 32-21 halftime lead.
Olson’s 3-pointer to open the second half brought the Rebels to within eight, but the Polars scored five goals inside and used a 15-2 spurt to put the game away.
“I’m proud of how they played tonight,” Cummins said. “They played a collection of talent that you normally don’t see in double-A. We made them play basketball for 36 minutes.”
Olson is one of four seniors who concluded their prep careers. The football team’s quarterback didn’t get to participate in those playoffs due to COVID-19 protocols, making the basketball season all the more memorable.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. We’re a small school, barely AA, and we were able to pull it off,” he said. “We were just happy to be here. (The Polars) wants to win it all, and they have a good shot at it.”
Moose Lake-WR 21-19—40
Minneapolis North 32-39—71
Moose Lake-Willow River — Logan Orvedahl 6, Phillip Sheetz 6, Brady Watrin 4, Mason Olson 19, Carter Johnson 5. Totals 14 3-5 40.
3-point goals — Olson 4, Orvedahl 2, Sheetz 2, Johnson.
Minneapolis North — Willie Wilson 7, Davon Townley Jr. 15, Marcus Owens 14, De’Meiko Anderson 11, Andre Gray II 12, Clifford Brown 6, Jacob Butler 2, Mario Sanders 2, Datrell McCrimmon 2. Totals 30 6-9 71.
3-point goals — Wilson, Anderson 3, Gray.