Panthers win to claim third place at state
ST. PAUL - The Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team is returning home as the third place team in Minnesota. The Panthers ended the state tournament Saturday, defeating Norman County East 78-65 in a battle between old section rivals in the Class A ...
ST. PAUL - The Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team is returning home as the third place team in Minnesota.
The Panthers ended the state tournament Saturday, defeating Norman County East 78-65 in a battle between old section rivals in the Class A third place game at Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia-St. Paul.
"It's good to end on a high note and win this way," Cass Lake-Bena senior Joel Salscheider said. "Only eight teams finish their seasons with a win."
Fellow senior Joe Wilson felt the same way.
"It's much better to end the season with a win than a loss," Wilson said.
Cass Lake-Bena and NCE played a competitive game, with the Panthers able to win by breaking away in the middle of the second half.
Martin Wind finished with a game-high 33 points and was 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Nate Salscheider had 15 points and Joel Salscheider chipped in 12.
David Varriano and Tyler Bennefeld led NCE with 20 points each.
The 2007-08 Panthers ended the season with a 29-4 record, reaching the state tournament in back-to-back seasons and for the fourth time in seven years. Cass Lake-Bena had win streaks of 16 games, seven games and four games this season.
"I think we can be proud of our accomplishments this season," Cass Lake-Bena senior Travis Huesers said.
Head coach Dan Ninham put his five seniors on the court to start the game -- Nate Salscheider, Joel Salscheider, Huesers, Ryan Lemon and Joe Wilson.
"It was an honor to them," Ninham said. "Those guys are no token players at all. They are worthy players, they have contributed this season and we're really grateful."
The Panthers opened the game on a 17-7 run over the first 10 minutes, but the Eagles bounced back to cut Cass Lake-Bena's lead to 17-14 with 9:15 remaining in the first half.
NCE (25-7) stayed within striking distance even as Cass Lake-Bena led by seven with 2:50 left. The Eagles finished on a 13-7 run and trailed the Panthers 38-37 at halftime.
"It's nice to be tested and I have a big amount of respect for coach Mike Sather," said Ninham, who recalled a section final in 1997-98 when NCE beat the Panthers to advance to state. "We faced them in section finals and they beat us when I first started coaching. I think I had hair back then."
A 42-42 tie with 15:40 left in the game was as close as NCE would get. The Panthers broke away on a 20-3 run over the next seven minutes, taking a 62-45 lead with seven minutes left to play.
Wind was a big part of that run and was 3-for-5 from 3-point range in the second half.
The Panthers, which shot 54 percent in the second half, were able to hold the lead and the Eagles never were within 10 points the rest of the game.
Nate Howard finished with 8 points for Cass Lake-Bena, Travis Huesers had 5, Lemon 3 and Thomas Huesers 2.
Cass Lake-Bena won the rebounding battle 38-36 with Nate Salscheider grabbing 13 rebounds and Joel Salscheider 10. The Panthers had nine steals in the game with Huesers taking three.
"It meant to a lot to go out with a win in our last year even though we didn't win a championship," Cass Lake-Bena senior Ryan Lemon said. "I had a lot of fun playing on the court with my teammates.
The morning game in St. Paul had a spirited atmosphere, but nothing near what Cass Lake-Bena experienced in the other two games at state - a 79-61 win over then undefeated Bertha-Hewitt in the quarterfinals and an 87-77 loss to Minnesota Transitions Charter School in the semifinals.
Many of the Panther fans who showed up for those games in MInneapolis did not show up in St. Paul. There were some empty seats and the seniors didn't hide their disappointment.
"The fans were great at Mariucci (Arena) and Target Center ... but it seemed kind of poor today," said Lemon, referring to the turnout. "I think it was because everyone expected that we were going to win a championship. We didn't do that, but we did our best."