Prep boys basketball: Asuma picks apart Nevis to send Cherry to state semifinal
Despite a height advantage for Nevis, the Cherry Tigers outscored their opponents 38-24 in the paint.
MINNEAPOLIS — Cherry didn’t get the start it wanted in its Class A boys basketball quarterfinal matchup against Nevis Wednesday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, but it certainly got the finish.
Nevis scored the first seven points and with more than 3 minutes gone in the first half without a field goal, Cherry coach Jordan Christianson was forced to call a timeout.
After the timeout, Isaac Asuma drove down the court for a layup and then Sam Serna hit the first of his three 3-pointers to spark a 9-0 run for Cherry and get them back into the game.
Christianson told his team to start attacking the basket instead of settling for jump shots.
“Isaac was shooting a lot of mid-range jumpers and that’s 100% in his arsenal and a shot he hits at a really high clip, but with him, he can get to the rack whenever,” Christianson said. “When it comes down to state tournament time, you’re trying to get the highest-percentage shots you can possibly get. During the timeout I was like, ‘It’s not a bad shot, but we can get one better.’”
Asuma continued to attack the basket for the rest of the game, eventually scoring 31 points and grabbing 17 rebounds to give Cherry a 68-57 win to advance to the state semifinal.
It was a huge turnaround from the teams’ game Jan. 18 when Nevis won at home 67-45.
“Going into it, I thought we could do what we did the first time when we beat him at our place,” Nevis senior Eddie Kramer said. “But Isaac Asuma, he just picked us apart here and there. We tried to adjust but the Barn, it’s different than a home gym where you can call out 2-3 zones, but there’s such a big crowd and it’s loud. You can’t really hear, so we had a hard time adjusting.”
Cherry ended the first half on a 9-2 run and held Nevis scoreless for the first 3:33 of the second half. By the time Ian Ahrendt hit two free throws, the Cherry lead had grown to 10.
Nevis cut the lead to eight after Mathias Warrington hit a 3-pointer midway through the second half, but Asuma was fouled on a successful drive to the basket and converted the free throw.
The bucket started another 9-0 run in which Asuma scored seven points and the lead ballooned back to 53-36.
“We knew that Asuma was probably the best athlete on the floor,” Nevis coach Scott Kramer said. “He was able to get to the basket and that was the run they made. We tried adjusting a few things, but he still continued to get to the basket. He just outhustled us in a lot of areas and that was the big difference.”
Warrington finished with a team-high 15 points for Nevis.
Asuma, a sophomore, said he’s been dreaming about playing basketball at the state tournament for years with his brother, eighth-grader Noah Asuma, and cousin Isaiah Asuma, a seventh-grader. Noah was Cherry’s second-leading scorer with 13 points.
“Since I was in elementary school, I’ve been talking about it with my brother and cousin, ‘We’re going to go to state this year and this year and this year,’” he said. “It’s actually cool to be here and I had to take in the moment. I was like, ‘This is sweet, I’m playing on Minnesota’s court.’ Then I had to lock back into the game and just take care of business.
Cherry (27-4) will face top-seeded Hayfield at noon Friday at Williams Arena. Hayfield beat Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 66-49 to advance.
The Vikings (30-2) beat Cherry 78-65 in a meeting Feb. 5, the last time Cherry lost.