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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 3/23/2012 9:14:53 PM

By Luke Sleeper

During the early 2000s, the Litchfield High School boys basketball team was a mainstay at Target Center. The Dragons’ jersey hung in the rafters of the arena in 2000, 2002 and 2003, signifying one of the great dynasties of the decade. After defeating defending Class 2A champion Perham in Friday night’s state semifinal, Litchfield has earned an opportunity to hang its uniform from the Target Center ceiling once again.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair that ended with the Section 6 champion Dragons holding a narrow 21-20 edge. Perham, a team that typically likes to use a high-tempo offense to run the floor at will, was slowed down tremendously by Litchfield’s defensive intensity; Dragons coach John Carlson described it as “ridiculous.”

“One of our assistant coaches told (the players) after the game that we were asking them to do things defensively that were ‘nearly impossible,’ ” Carlson said. “But our guys were able to do it.”

The slow-paced defensive battle was taken to the next level in the second half. With 7:35 left in regulation, Litchfield junior guard Dylan Koll hit a three-pointer to tie the score at 31.

Incredibly, Koll’s basket would be the last points scored until the final seconds of the game.

With 14 seconds left and the ball in his team’s possession, Carlson left it up to his players to decide how the game would end.

“I suggested two plays in the huddle and had the guys decide what they wanted to do. They felt Zach (Kinny) should get the last shot, which showed how much confidence they have in him.”

Kinny, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, dribbled at the top of the key while his teammates created space for him. He drove right, spun to his left to the free throw line and made the first basket in almost eight minutes as time expired to give his team a shot at the state title.

“It definitely didn’t feel like eight minutes,” said Kinny.


Plainview-Elgin-Melville advanced to the first state championship game in program history with its Class 2A semifinal victory over Section 7 champion Braham on Friday night. The Bulldogs started strong and never looked back, pulling ahead by 14 points at halftime en route to an 87-67 win.

P-E-M was led by the senior duo of Cory Speer and Sam Ruth, who each scored 21 points. The combination of Speer’s stealthy perimeter shooting and Ruth’s nose for the basket in the low post was too much for Braham. Junior guard Beau Nelson added 16 points and four rebounds for P-E-M.

Despite his team’s loss, Braham senior guard Tyler Vaughan showed why he is a candidate for Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball. Vaughn led all scorers with 33 points on 12-for-26 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds. Senior center Cameron Braund had 14 points and five rebounds. The Bombers will play Perham in the third-place game Saturday.

Plainview-Elgin-Melville will meet Litchfield in Saturday’s state title game at Target Center. The Bulldogs are seeking their first state championship in four state tournament appearances since 2007.

--Luke Sleeper is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota.


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