(Full story) Coming off the late night after Friday’s semis, the Bomber boys assembled one last time at Concordia University for the 3rd-place game with Perham Saturday at noon. The game went down to the wire– tied at 44-44 with just over two minutes left– before the Yellowjackets prevailed 52-46.
“We said last night and this morning that we were going out in this game and use up all of our energy and do what we had to do. A couple years ago, we were real disappointed since we lost the 3rd-place game by 40, and we didn’t want that to happen,” said senior center Cameron Braund who got the Bombers started with the team’s first four points. “So we decided we’d put forth all our energy no matter how disappointed from not being able to get into the championship.”
The Yellowjackets eked ahead 20-12 when Braham went to its zone defense. Free throws by Shaun Hollenkamp and field goals from Braund, Drew Klemz and Tyler Vaughan got Braham to within 24-20 before the first half ended with Perham leading 26-22. The foul calls went largely in their favor as the Jackets had 13 chances at the line compared to Braham’s four. Braham also was a tired 1-for-9 from the arc.
Perham’s 6’7” center Mark Schumacher scored seven early points in the second half to help build the largest lead of the game at 36-24. After a timeout, the Bombers jumped back into the zone.
“Mainly, we used our 1-3-1 defense, just trying to keep the ball out of his hands– push it to the wings,” said Braund of the Schumacher matchup.
A Vaughan runner and a Braund 15-footer started Braham’s comeback. Hollenkamp later followed with a three-pointer, then Vaughan got inside for a three-point play and had a ‘3’ roll around the rim before sinking. Bias finished off a steal which locked the game up at 42-42 with 5:20 remaining. Vaughan’s ensuing swoop drive kept the game locked at 44-44.
Back answered the Yellowjackets with a Schumacher shot inside and an outside hit for a four-point edge. Braund’s last bucket as a Bomber had his team within 48-46 with 1:26 left, but no more shots would fall the rest of the way. Perham sunk 4-of-5 free throws to earn the right to hoist the 3rd-place trophy.
“We got in the locker room after last night and just said, ‘This can’t happen. We need to play harder.’ So we decided to go with the trap and decided to work as hard as we’ve worked all year,” said Klemz.
“It was really fun. I love playing with my five seniors. We gave it all this game, just ended coming up short,” said Bias. “Our legs were tired coming off the late game, but we tried.”
Coach Vaughan on taking on the 2011 champs, “Two years ago, we didn’t play hard in this game. It’s all I asked– to play hard. It was tough. The shots that we made all year didn’t really go today– our legs just aren’t there. It’s our third game in four days on big courts. I give Perham a lot of credit. They’re as good a defensive team as we played all year.”
“You’re going to see great team defenses in this tourney. Every time any of us drove, they’re waiting for us, and we saw it again today against Perham,” analyzed T. Vaughan on the defensive pressure. “They picked up four or five charges, so it was tough for us to get to the basket. Outside shots weren’t falling today. We got close in the second half, but they’re a great team, and they just pulled it out.”
The Bombers closed down the season with a 30-3 record. The tight-knit squad emerged from the locker room post-game with every eye red and tear-filled.
“I am so proud of my five seniors. No coach could ever ask for five better seniors than I had this year,” said Coach Vaughan. “It’s too bad I couldn’t lead them to the promised land because we were right there at that top level. A play here or a play there…it’s so sad. And, of course, with my son leaving as one of the all-time greats. I’m a dad, too…it’s very hard.”
On walking off the court with Dad and teammates for the last time, Tyler Vaughan shared, “Definitely, it’s real rough. Playing five years and having it come to an end was something I wasn’t looking forward to at all. I’ve been playing with these guys since second grade; it’s going to be tough without them. We had a great season, and we’ll have happy memories forever.”
Braund closes down his six years playing Bomber basketball. “I love all my teammates. They mean everything to me. I’m sad I’ll never be able to play with them again,” he said.
Wrapping up his career, Klemz philosophized, “It’s meant so much to me. I love playing for this team. I just can’t believe it’s over. Everyone on the team has so much pride, whether you play or are the water boy, it doesn’t matter.”
Bomber Stats: Vaughan 16 points/8 rebounds/4 steals; Braund 12 points/3 rebounds; Bias 11 points; Hollenkamp 5 points/2 rebounds; Klemz 2 points/2 rebounds.
Tyler Vaughan will play in the 30th annual Minnesota High School All-Star Basketball Series this weekend. His “Blue” team opens Friday night at St. Cloud State (7 p.m.), with Saturday’s game at Macalester College.
Cameron Braund and Anthony Bias will play in the North All-Star Game in Bagley on Saturday.