Playing against top-seed Esko in the March 17 Section 7AA championship, Braham rallied from a 10-point deficit at the half with an overall strong second half to hammer home an 81-72 victory. Senior Tyler Vaughan took the team on his shoulders for a career-best and new team record 53 points– 31 of those coming in the second half.
Vaughan scored 14 of the Bombers’ first 19 points when the team trailed the Eskomos 20-19. Marc Peterson, one of the three super-sophs on Esko’s perimeter, then swished three-straight ‘3s’ as their lead grew. Kory Deadrick popped another ‘3,’ and senior Jared Harms finished off a strong 13-point first half as the recipient of passes off drives. When Peterson knocked down another shot from the arc, the Eskomos built their largest lead at 40-27 before Vaughan got inside for a three-point play with a minute left in the half.
“Coach (Jeff) Eklund, as we walked into the locker room, said ‘Let’s switch it up.’ And I agreed with him,” said Coach Bob Vaughan on Braham’s defensive adjustments for the second half. “We put Cameron (Braund) outside and put Tyler down low where he could help more. That, as a result, speeded up the game. And that’s what we had to do, we had to speed up the game because they move so well in their half-court sets and shoot it so well. Esko deserves all the credit in the world. My god, they just didn’t miss in the first half!”
“The first half when they were driving, they were kicking it to Harms every time,” explained Braund on how the team went about limiting Esko’s driving ability. “So the second half we tried something else with me on Deadrick and Tyler on Harms. I just tried to deny Deadrick as much as I could.”
Anthony Bias, coming off a strong game against Virginia in the semis, began the second half with a steal which fed Vaughan for a breakaway. Drew Klemz, Vaughan and Sam Stigen all followed with ’3s’ as Braham worked their way ahead 48-47 by the 10:40 mark.
“Basically, I just take my role on this team,” said Klemz. “I know that if I’m open, I’m going to shoot. We have tons of talent on our team, and everyone else can shoot the ball so well. I just do my best; I play a hard defense.”
The next five minutes the game remained incredibly close, which saw Shaun Hollenkamp knocking down a ‘3’ and a couple crazy calls going against Braham including a traveling call on Braund’s athletic finish off a break.
Then Zach Dahlman worked for a huge putback that began the distance creation. Bias snuck a steal and a layup to make it 69-65, then a long ‘Motion’ offensive set was finished off with a pair of Vaughan free throws which extended the Bombers’ lead to 71-66. In a replica of his prior play, Bias burst in for another steal and sprint layup for the seven-point lead with 1:17 remaining, forcing an Esko timeout and sending the large Bomber following into a frenzy.
Vaughan closed the deal by sinking 7-of-8 free throws around one last Eskomo three-pointer as he climbed to the 53 points.
“Once I got that last steal, I figured that we were going to win the game because they had to start fouling. Then Tyler made all of his free throws, so there you go. I saw him not looking, so I just went for it. I just went for the steal, and I got it. It worked out good,” said Bias on the swipes. “They didn’t miss at all in the first half, so we started playing lockdown ‘D’ on their ‘3’ for a while so they started missing some. And they got tired because we kept pushing them up and down the court.”
“Especially on this stage to be able to do that, is really amazing for me right now,” said a wide-smiling Vaughan about his new career-high on the UMD court. “We finally pulled through at the end. Got a couple of stops, made a couple of shots and once we got ahead of them, we didn’t really let them up.”
On Tyler’s 53-point performance, Coach Vaughan exclaimed, “Boy, in all the years you’ve watched, is that the best game a Braham kid ever had? I mean, he just took it over.”
“We got intense. The will to win took over. I think we played a few more guys than they did. I thought we wore them down just a little at the end. They weren’t quite as sharp and missed some ‘3s,’” Coach Vaughan continued. “Anthony always likes to go after steals because his hands are so quick. The first half, I didn’t want anyone in foul trouble, but at halftime in the locker room, I told him, ‘All right– go ahead and pick him.’ And what a time to pick him twice, huh?”
State berth significance
Vaughan and Klemz were both starters on the 2010 team which reached State, finishing with a 4th-place medal after going 1-2. Earning the seventh State berth in the Bombers’ history is a great way to go out.
“It’s so great. Playing with these guys is one of the best life experiences I’ve ever had. I mean, we have so much fun. Playing with each other this long, everything just clicks,” said Klemz.
On the third State trip over his five varsity seasons, Tyler added, “This State trip means the most to me right now. Last year, my Dad wasn’t able to be here. Just be able to get to the State tournament for Braham and for my teammates means so much to me; I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
For senior Braund, he will be stepping out as a starter for his first State hoops tourney.
“It’s going to be great,” he said. “Last year, we came up short in the section semifinals. That was one of the biggest disappointments ever. So this year we finally get our justification.”