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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.

Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) dives to knock a loose ball away from Nevis’ JohnPaul Benson (15)
Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) dives to knock a loose ball away from Nevis’ JohnPaul Benson (15) in the second half of Cherry's 68-57 win in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

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.

Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) goes up for a bucket over Nevis’ JohnPaul Benson (15)
Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) goes up for a bucket over Nevis’ JohnPaul Benson (15) in the second half of Cherry's 68-57 win in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

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.’”

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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.

Nevis’ Mathias Warrington (0) tips a rebound away from Cherry’s Kaleb Rinerson (42)
Nevis’ Mathias Warrington (0) tips a rebound away from Cherry’s Kaleb Rinerson (42) in the second half of Nevis' 68-57 loss to Cherry in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“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.”

Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) drives on Nevis’ Joe Houchin (5)
Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) drives on Nevis’ Joe Houchin (5) in the second half of Cherry's 68-57 win in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Warrington finished with a team-high 15 points for Nevis.

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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.

Cherry 30-38—68

Nevis 26-31—57

Cherry — Isaac Asuma 31, Noah Asuma 13, Isaiah Asuma 2, Sam Serna 10, Nick Serna 8, Zach Carpenter 4. Totals 25 14-21 68.

3-point goals — N. Asuma, S. Serna 3.

Nevis — Mathias Warrington 12, Eddi Kramer 15, Joe Houchin 7, Cain Mitchell 4, JohnPaul Benson 7, Austin Ahrendt 7, Ian Ahrendt 4, Devan Lindow 1. Totals 19 14-21 57.

3-point goals — Warrington, Kramer 3, A. Ahrendt.

Cherry’s Sam Serna (11) hits the deck as he tips the ball away from Nevis’ Austin Ahrendt (1)
Cherry’s Sam Serna (11) hits the deck as he tips the ball away from Nevis’ Austin Ahrendt (1) in the second half of Cherry's 68-57 win in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
The Cherry student section celebrates an ‘and one’
The Cherry student section celebrates an ‘and one’ in the second half of their Tigers' 68-57 win over Nevis in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) gives a high five to his coach Jordan Christianson
Cherry’s Isaac Asuma (3) gives a high-five to his coach Jordan Christianson as the buzzer sounds during Cherry's 68-57 win in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Asuma finished with 31 points and 17 rebounds.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Cherry’s Noah Asuma (3) shoots a jumper over Nevis’ Eddie Kramer (3)
Cherry’s Noah Asuma (3) shoots a jumper over Nevis’ Eddie Kramer (3) in the second half of Cherry's 68-57 win in the quarterfinal game of the Class A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday afternoon, March 23, 2022, at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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