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BOYS BASKETBALL: Panthers rout Red Lake for 8A East subsection crown

The Cass Lake-Bena bench cheers after senior RaSean Connor hit a buzzer-beater to end the first half of a Section 8A semifinal game against Red Lake on Monday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 5
Cass Lake-Bena senior RaSean Connor (23) shoots a three-pointer in a Section 8A semifinal game on Monday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 5
Red Lake sophomore Riley Chaboyea (10) grabs a rebound in a Section 8A semifinal game against Cass Lake-Bena on Monday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 5
Cass Lake-Bena senior Ethan Brown (5) passes the ball in a Section 8A semifinal game against Red Lake on Monday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)4 / 5
Cass Lake-Bena junior Jarell Jacobs (1) races down the court with the ball in a Section 8A semifinal game against Red Lake on Monday at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)5 / 5

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- The Cass Lake-Bena boys basketball team is proving that last season was no fluke.

After dethroning the longtime Section 8A kings of Red Lake a year ago, the Panthers moved one step closer to a section repeat on Monday with a dominant 84-41 semifinal win over the Warriors at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls.

“Even the years that Red Lake won the section, we had competitive teams. We were just still missing something,” CL-B head coach John Wind said. “Last year it all came together, and this year is carrying over from last year.”

Cass Lake-Bena rode a Herculean defensive effort that spanned most of the first half en route to its second straight 8A East subsection title.

“We had to stop Justin Barrett first. He’s their main scorer. … And then (Riley Chaboyea),” Panthers senior RaSean Connor said of the Warriors. “After we stopped them, they were just looking at their bigs. We put in Tommy (Cloud), who was eating them up good.”

It was tight early -- just 9-8 Panthers (28-1) after three and a half minutes -- but then the trademark defense showed up for Cass Lake-Bena.

Red Lake (18-11) made just one field goal over the final 14 minutes, 33 seconds of the half. It came via a deep Chaboyea 3-pointer with 2:00 before halftime, but CL-B answered with another 11 straight points to close the frame -- including back-to-back Connor threes that he capped with a buzzer-beater.

“We just tried to get ourselves going and had to get some people off the bench to light a fire,” Connor said. “We all have a role to do on this team. Once we do it, we play just like we did tonight.”

Red Lake played more even from there, but a 41-12 halftime difference loomed over any second-half efforts. Barrett put in a transition layup for a modest 8-3 Warrior run, but Red Lake was still down 26.

The Warriors scored on back-to-back occasions just twice from then on, most notably on matching Chaboyea 3-pointers late in the game, but the Panthers controlled the finish.

Cass Lake-Bena finished the game on a 12-0 spurt, which included three Riechen Anwiler layups within a 30-second span, to end Red Lake’s season for a second year in a row.

“It comes and goes like that,” Wind said of the shifting powers in every section. “Some years we’re rebuilding. Some years all we’re doing is reloading the personnel we lost. We lost some good players in the last few years. We’ve just replaced them. People had to step up. And they have.”

Connor finished with 15 points to lead CL-B, while Jarell Jacobs had 14 and Jared Brown nine. Barrett paced the Warriors with a game-high 16 points.

Barrett is also one of six seniors Red Lake loses to graduation, joining a class that includes Mark Kingbird III, Keenan Swinson, David Smith, Jalen Kelly and Carter Spears.

For Cass Lake-Bena, meanwhile, the journey back to the state tournament marches on. The Panthers are one win away, but Ada-Borup, the top seed in the 8A West subsection, still stands in their way.

The section championship is set for 7 p.m. Friday, March 15, at the Ralph in Thief River Falls.

“I feel like, and the boys do, that we have some unfinished business,” Wind said. “Even last year, we wanted to go down (to state) and we wanted to win. That feeling is more this year.”

No. 1 Cass Lake-Bena 84, No. 3 Red Lake 41

RL 12 29 -- 41

CL-B 41 43 -- 84

RED LAKE (18-11) -- Barrett 16, Kingbird III 9, R. Chaboyea 6, Smith 3, Spears 3, A. Chaboyea 2, Taylor 2.

CASS LAKE-BENA (28-1) -- Connor 15, Jacobs 14, J. Brown 9, E. Brown 8, Reyes 7, Anwiler 6, A. Brown 6, Mitchell 5, Cloud 4, Sargent 4, Smith 3, Fairbanks 2, Fowler 1.

Micah Friez

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

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