Tigers down top-ranked NL-S in OT
Corey Nohl isn't exactly the man Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta probably wanted on the free throw line in overtime against the state's top-ranked Class AA team.
But Nohl, a sub-50 percent foul shooter, and the Tigers delivered under pressure, making six of eight free throws in overtime to hold off New London-Spicer 62-58 before a large home crowd at Morris Area on Friday night.
The West Central Conference championship game victory gives the Tigers a 23-2 record and momentum heading into the Section 6AA playoffs next week. New London-Spicer, which defeated the Tigers by 21 points last month when the teams were Class AA's top-two ranked teams, fell to 25-2.
Both teams open section play on Thursday as the top-seeds in the East and West subsections.
On Friday, the Tigers played sluggish offensively early in the game, but recovered and stayed within a few points of the Wildcats for most of the second half. The Tigers took a 53-50 lead on Alex Erickson's two free throws with seven seconds remaining in regulation.
But NL-S's Jayme Moten, who hit several momentum-killing shots against the Tigers on Friday, drilled a long 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer to force OT.
The Tigers were far from dispirited by Moten's heroics. Cory Hennen hit a 3-pointer about midway through OT to put the Tigers up 56-54, and after the Wildcats tied the game, Nohl, a 45 percent foul shooter, hit 3 of 4 free throws in an 18 second span to put the Tigers up 59-56 with 18 seconds left.
After Nohl missed the second of two free throws, Tigers forward Mac Kampmeier made one of the biggest plays of the game, chasing down the offensive rebound and drawing a foul. He hit another foul shot with 17 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.
The Wildcats' Aaron Johnson scored on a put-back with seven seconds left to pull NL-S within two, but Hennen calmly knocked down two free throws with five seconds left to put the Tigers up by four, 62-58. Moten missed at the buzzer.
Erickson helped keep the Tigers in the game in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points after halftime. The Tigers trailed by eight points at the half, and the Wildcats pushed the lead to 11 before Erickson scored eight points in a 10-2 Tigers run that cut the NL-S lead to three with 12:30 to play.
Erickson finished with 16 points. Hennen had 17 and Lincoln Arnold scored 11.
Moten, who four times hit 3-pointers immediately after Tigers baskets to blunt Morris Area's momentum, finished with 20 points. Teammate Aaron Johnson had 17.
The win avenged not only the loss to NL-S earlier this season, it was also revenge for a loss to the Wildcats in the WCC championship game last season.
The teams, which also split two regular-season games last year, have a chance to reprise last season again. The Wildcats won the rubber game against the Tigers in the Section 6AA championship game.
This year, NL-S is the top seed in the Section 6AA East subsection and the Tigers at the top seed in the section's West playoff pairings.
Morris Area plays No. 8-seed Long Prairie-Grey Eagle at 7 p.m. Thursday in Morris. NL-S plays St. John's Prep on Thursday.
The section playoffs continue with sub-section semifinals on Saturday, March 13, and sub-section finals on Tuesday, March 16 at the University of Minnesota, Morris.