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BOYS BASKETBALL: Cass Lake-Bena routs C-G 89-42 in playoff opener

Cass Lake-Bena senior Arnold Kingbird (22) scores in the first half of the Section 8A East quarterfinal game against Clearbrook-Gonvick Thursday at Cass Lake-Bena High School. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 3
Cass Lake-Bena senior Noah DeLapaz (3) makes a 3-pointer in Thursday's Section 8A East quarterfinal game against Clearbrook-Gonvick at Cass Lake-Bena High School. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 3
Cass Lake-Bena junior Ethan Brown (5) makes a drive in Thursday's Section 8A East quarterfinal game against Clearbrook-Gonvick at Cass Lake-Bena High School. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 3

CASS LAKE -- Even when the Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team saw its 25-point lead slim back down to single digits, the Panthers didn’t sweat it.

“Coming into this game, we were planning on just pushing the ball every chance we could,” CL-B senior guard Arnold Kingbird said. “Just running and gunning. (Fatigue) started to hit (Clearbrook-Gonvick) right at the beginning of the second half. We just kept on. I think they got tired, and we just kept on going. That’s why it made the difference.”

The top-seeded Panthers used defensive takeaways to fuel a relentless second half, starting their Section 8A playoff run on the right foot by dismantling No. 8 C-G 89-42 in Cass Lake on Thursday.

Cass Lake-Bena (26-1) was dominant at the start, picking off passes left and right to fuel a double-digit lead, 16-4, six minutes in. Noah DeLapaz finished an 8-0 run with a layup off another steal, making for the 12-point advantage in the early going.

It stretched to a 25-point game at 34-9 when Coltin Mitchell made the extra pass and found Kingbird for a lay in. But the Bears (9-19) chipped away, starting with an ensuing 7-0 run.

C-G outscored the Panthers 22-7 in the final seven minutes of the first half, keeping within striking distance at 41-30 after bringing a 9-0 spurt into the break. Ben Engebretson added another 3-pointer into the mix with the second half’s opening score, shooting the Bears into single-digit deficit at 41-33.

The game wasn’t close for much longer.

CL-B restored order by scoring the next 16 points. The run opened on a Sam Johnson mid-range jumper, was highlighted by a no-look, one-handed dime from DeLapaz to Kingbird for an easy layup, and finished on another Kingbird layup that came from another Clearbrook-Gonvick turnover.

“The second half, what happened when we came back out, we felt that they were going to get tired,” Cass Lake-Bena head coach John Wind said. “We started pushing the ball up, and we played better defense. We were tipping the ball in our 1-2-2 press, and we just started running, trying to push it faster, and it seemed like their foot speed got slower. I think that’s what we planned.”

C-G’s Erick Bergman and Hunter Ehlers combined for the next five points, Ehlers’ score coming on an and-one bucket with 13 minutes, 15 seconds remaining. But the Bears then went without a field goal for the next 12:45, opening the door for CL-B.

With the Panthers already back in control, a 28-0 spurt was the exclamation point in taking over. Clearbrook-Gonvick finally returned to the scoreboard after a nine-minute drought, but the score had moved from 57-38 to 85-38 in the meantime.

“It’s really fun to see when we go on big runs and the crowd gets into it,” Kingbird said. “It’s really rewarding when all of us -- the bench, the crowd, the players on the court -- cheer every time someone makes it. It’s an amazing feeling.”

With 30 seconds to play, Quincy Hammer sunk a short runner for just the Bears’ fourth field goal of the half, and their first since the 13:15 mark. It added up to a 48-12 second-half score in favor of the Panthers, equalling the 89-42 final.

Kingbird’s 28 points led all scorers, while another 25 from DeLapaz and 15 from Jarell Jacobs aided the Cass Lake-Bena cause. Engebretson finished with 14 to pace Clearbrook-Gonvick.

“When we do something -- (whether) we run plays or push the ball up -- the boys will stick to it and just keep going back to the same thing until the other team adjusts and counters whatever we’re doing,” Wind said. “In that sense, I think the kids have grown to understand that, and we don’t change anything.”

The Panthers now advance to play Red Lake at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls, with a spot in the subsection finals on the line.

No. 1 Cass Lake-Bena 89, No. 8 Clearbrook-Gonvick 42

CG 30 12 -- 42

CLB 41 48 -- 89

Clearbrook-Gonvick scorers: Engebretson 14, Hamnes 8, Dorman 6, Ehlers 6, Bergman 3, Nelson 3, Hammer 2.

Cass Lake-Bena scorers: Kingbird 28, DeLapaz 25, Jacobs 15, Lawrence 6, Washington 4, Brown 3, Reyes 3, Smith 3, Fowler 2.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez covers Bemidji State basketball and BSU for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Beaver basketball updates.

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