Down 70-63 with 4:06 to go and facing a 78-74 deficit with 30 ticks left, the Braham boys still found a way to pull out an 81-78 victory over St. Croix Lutheran in the March 21 Class AA quarterfinals at Williams Arena.
The U of M court has been a magical one for the Bombers. They won their first-ever State game on the raised floor back in 2004. Then in 2010 with most of this year’s squad either playing or on the bench, the Bombers eclipsed a 20-point deficit to get past Sibley East in OT in the State quarterfinals.
“We made so many mistakes, but we have the heart of a champion,” said an elated Coach Bob Vaughan in the Williams Arena lobby post-game. “Everybody looked up and down the floor, figured the game’s over. No it’s not. 30 seconds to go they got a ‘and-1.’ It looked like the game’s over, but we won.”
The first half had the look of an early-round boxing match where both sides were feeling out each other, not wanting to gather fouls. Both offenses clicked well, especially the driving to the hole by the Crusaders. Tyler Vaughan scored 15 in the half, and Anthony Bias had 8 as Braham took a 37-34 lead into the break.
Three-pointers early by Drew Klemz and Vaughan, along with Cameron Braund fighting hard for an inside hoop, had Braham up 53-47 with 10 minutes to go. But here came the Crusaders with their strong inside drives and slick passing to find back-door cuts. Jackson Goplen’s hoop created the 72-66 lead at the 4:06 mark.
With 41.7 left, Braund hit one-of-two free throws as Braham was within 76-74, and the Bombers had an apparent steal but turned it over to Matt Olson who drove, made the bucket, but couldn’t finish the free throw.
Vaughan popped one more ‘3’, and after Braham’s final timeout, Bias made yet another key steal this post-season off the inbounds pass. He quickly found a cutting Shaun Hollenkamp who delivered the go-ahead layup with 18 seconds left.
Vaughan blocked St. Croix’s layup attempt at the other end, Zach Dahlman gathered the rebound, was immediately fouled, and hit both free throws with 7.1 left for the 81-78 edge. Dahlman also smartly fouled Wesley Tucker before any three-point shots could be attempted, and the Bombers walked off the floor as winners.
Next up in the 8 p.m. Friday night “AA” semifinals at the Target Center, Braham (30-1) will face Plainview-Elgin-Millville (25-6) who also had a nail-biting 69-65 win over St. Peter at Williams Arena. The 6 p.m. semifinals has defending-champ Perham (51-47 over Worthington) going against Litchfield (51-40 over Watertown-Mayer).
Vaughan 34 pts, 12 reb, 7 asst
Braund 13 pts, 9 reb, 2 blocks
Bias 12 pts, 2 steals
Dahlman 8 pts, 8 reb
Hollenkamp 6 pts, 5 asst
Klemz 5 pts, 3 reb
Stigen 3 pts, 1 asst