(Full story) 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. Avoiding the “one and done” tag was accomplished.
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 quarters.
“You know what, 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 one.’ It looked like the game’s over, but we won.”
The first half had both offenses in control, with neither team wanting to gather fouls. Braham made the first move when consecutive buckets by Anthony Bias, Cameron Braund and Tyler Vaughan built a 30-24 lead, then Shaun Hollenkamp fed Bias for a three-pointer which gave the Bombers their biggest lead at 33-26. But the Crusaders continued to drive to the hole well and got back within 37-34 at 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. Matt Olson’s hoop off an offensive board created the 70-63 lead with just over four minutes to play.
“St. Croix was an excellent finishing team. They had numerous ‘And ones,’ I’m pretty sure. They were very quick and had explosive plays,” said Braund, who fought hard for rebounds at both ends of the floor, even after picking up his fourth foul.
Vaughan then caught fire from outside, hitting a pair of ‘3s’ and a pull-up jumper around a couple made free throws from Zach Dahlman as Braham fought back to get within one.
With 41.7 left, Braund hit one-of-two free throws to keep his team within 76-74. Next, the Bombers had an apparent steal off a half-court trap, but the ball was turned right over to SCL’s Olson who drove, made the bucket– but couldn’t finish the free throw.
Quickly upcourt, Vaughan popped one more ‘3’ to make it 78-77. Coach Vaughan used his final timeout, then Bias made yet another key steal this post-season off the inbounds pass in the corner. He quickly found a cutting Hollenkamp who delivered the go-ahead layup with 18 seconds left.
“Coach said ‘Get the steal; we had to get the steal.’ I had to deny him the ball because I knew he was going to go there, and I got it,” replayed Bias on his big defensive move.
Added Hollenkamp on the game-winner, “I got so nervous when he passed me the ball, but I was still able to make it. The lane was wide-open. Like Coach Vaughan said in the locker room, we have a lot of heart.”
Vaughan blocked St. Croix’s layup attempt at the other end, 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.
“Oh my gosh, it was so awful stepping up to the line. I mean, we shoot so many free throws in practice, but the pressure was on me. I was freaking out, and the timeout they called didn’t help. But I made them!” exclaimed Dahlman. On the final foul to put Tucker at the line, he added, “Yeah, that’s what we do with our situations. Foul ‘em quick before they can shoot a tying ‘3.’”
For the third game in a row, Vaughan did not leave the floor. Asked about his son’s willing in shot after shot to finish with 34 points and 12 rebounds, Coach Vaughan simply described, “Tyler does not want to lose.”
More stats: Braund 13 points/9 rebounds; Bias 12 points/2 steals; Dahlman 8 points/8 rebounds; Hollenkamp 6 points/5 assists; Klemz 5 points/3 rebounds; Stigen 3 points/3 assists.