District boys basketball: Mitchell, Land O'Lakes rematch on tap
TRINITY – For the past two seasons, Mitchell and Land O’Lakes have been the top teams in Class 7A, District 8. The pair faced off in the district finals of 2016, 2013 and 2012.
Things were on track for a fourth installment until the Springstead bus arrived late and the Eagles landed on fire from behind the arc, nearly taking out the Gators in the first game. The Gators eventually held on to win 55-54 in overtime, and Mitchell handily dispatched Sunlake 65-47 to set up the rematch on Friday.
The Eagles (14-10) might have arrived late but they arrived in synch and white hot from long distance. The teams traded 3-pointers to start the game, then Noah Torkelson hit another to go up 9-5. Sincere Torain added another. The Gators' Trivone Hill hit one and the Eagles led 16-10 after one.
Chris McThomas started to assert himself in the paint for the Gators (15-6), and the Eagles had trouble matching up with him. But the Eagles took a 32-26 lead into the half, then both teams went on runs to start the third quarter. Springstead's Robert Gomez drained another of his four 3-pointers to carry an 11-point lead into the final quarter and it looked like the Gator-Mustang rematch was not meant to be.
Hill, however, came out for the fourth and hit a triple. The Eagles turned the ball over. Torain missed an open 3. The Gators put the press on. Gomez missed a 3. With less than four minutes to play, Gomez hit on a triple to put the Eagles up by four.
McThomas got a block and turned it up the court for a basket and one. That cut the lead to 49-48. The Gators led 50-49 with 1:25 left on the clock and slowed the pace. The Gators turned it over on the inbound pass. The Eagles made an errant pass of their own, Hill picked it off and turned it into a layup on the other end to make it 52-49 with 44 seconds left.
The Eagles needed one more dose of magic as they chased the clock. Gomez (23 points), fading away, hurled a shot up at the buzzer and it fell, tying the score at 52 and sending it to overtime before the Gators held on to win.
“We needed to do a better job boxing out on those rebounds,” Land O'Lakes coach David Puhalski said. “But we live to play another day; that’s what it’s all about.”
In the nightcap, host Mitchell (19-7) jumped all over Sunlake (8-12) to start the game with a 10-0 run. Mustang 6-foot-5 forward Alec Sherman logged seven blocked shots in the game as well as seven rebounds.
“In the back, (Sherman) is our ball stopper,” Mustang coach Jared St. Charles said.
It wasn’t even Sherman’s best night blocking shots. He had 11 in a regular-season game against Springstead. St. Charles was certain Sherman has the school record for blocks in a game. Two of Sherman’s blocks were so thorough that he was able to just take the ball out of the shooter’s hand instead of just swatting it away.
“I love (blocking shots); it feels good and it gets everyone excited,” Sherman said.
To their credit, the Seahawks played a tough game, Connor Lloyd hitting four 3-pointers for 16 points. Teammate Jamal Wright had 15 points but the Mustangs could score in bursts any time the Seahawks drew it close.
“A lot of that comes from our defensive pressure,” St. Charles said. “We’re better in the open court than the half court.”
Wright and Soloman Davis got a little chip on Sherman, each getting one block against him but the Mustangs cruised to the finals rematch.
“Land O’Lakes likes the half court game,” St. Charles said. “We’re just going to have to deal with their physicality and we know we’ll have a fight on our hands.”