Boys Basketball: Apple Valley Ends Blaine’s Trip to State

Blaine Falls Short to Apple Valley 77-57

Jon Ababiy, Sports Editor

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The Blaine Bengals were unranked heading into Wednesday’s game against the Apple Valley Eagles, ranked 5th in the nation by the latest USA Today ranking. The Eagles pulled ahead early, but the Bengals added some points in the second half, with the game ending 77-57. The loss gave the Bengals their 11th and final loss of the season.

The Eagles featured a duo of two nationally ranked players, sophomore Tre Jones and junior Gary Trent Jr, in addition to a Mr. Basketball finalist, Brock Bertram. Apple Valley had put up 100 on the scoreboard twice during the section playoffs. However, this game, after their 25 point lead at halftime, they began subbing in reserve players, so every player had a chance on the court.

The game started with the Eagles jumping ahead, 9-2 at the 13:23 mark. Blaine had trouble getting solid shots because of the Apple Valley’s tight defense. The Eagles matched the Bengal’s height and managed to block many shots.

Things started to look better for the Bengals with 8 minutes to play, when senior Dakota Neppl made a 3 twice in two minutes while being tightly guarded. Neppl had a talent for making tough shots this season.

Apple Valley’s defense caused a lot of turnovers for the Bengals–7 on the half. They kept Blaine’s FG% to just 32.1% in the first half.

The Bengals could not set anything up inside, despite their height. The ball was just cycled around until a player could get a good enough shot. Junior Kurtis Weigand came through with 10 points in the first half.

The first half ended with the Eagles ahead 50-25

In the second half, things did not seem to be getting better for the Bengals, with the Bengals making a couple bad passes that led to AV baskets. Blaine started getting momentum when AV began to rest some of their starters. The Eagles also gave the Bengals many free throws.

Blaine started cycling its players, too. Senior Antoine Jenkins used his chance on the court to drop a 3, and ended the game with 7 points. Junior Jackson Odegaard airballed a three-pointer, but made up for it a few minutes later, when he channeled his inner Steph Curry to hit one from downtown.

Blaine bigmen Ben Scherer and Tim Leo matched up well with AV’s Bertram, holding him to just 4 points.

As the clock winded down, Blaine finally woke up on a sleeping AV reserve team. Junior KJ Downey had a big block on a AV layup, and junior Denero Washington finessed his only minute in the game with three points.

The game finished 77-57 for the Eagles. The Bengals finished their season 19-11. Apple Valley will go on to play rival Hopkins tomorrow.

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