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There were smiles and a few tears as the Lutheran boys basketball team players accepted the trophy for taking runner-up honors in the March 10 Class 3A state basketball championship game. Bayfield won the game 68-57.
“It was a heck of a game and I am proud of the way we played and what the guys accomplished this season,” Lutheran coach Bill Brandsma said. “This is a great group of guys who practiced hard and played hard all season. I think the worst thing about tonight is I don't get to coach this group any longer. I hope the guys think about all we achieved this year and not dwell on tonight's game.”
Lutheran advanced to the title game after defeating defending state champion Sterling, while Bayfield gained a shot at its first boys basketball state title by outscoring Faith Christian.
Bayfield jumped out to an early lead in the championship game, and the Lions battled back but the Wolverines never relinquished the lead.
The Lions got to the championship game by scoring a 48-46 win over defending state champion and heavily-favored 25-0 Sterling. Senior guard Peter Gibas hit a shot that provided the winning margin with seconds left on the clock.
“That was a great win for us as our guys played outstanding basketball,” the coach said about the win over Sterling. “Maybe we were still thinking about that game but we sure got off to a slow start today against Bayfield.”
Bayfield came out pushing the pace against Lutheran. They played aggressive, swarming defense when the Lions had the ball. When they got the ball, the Wolverines had the range from outside, plus they were able to drive to the hoop and score points as they built a 21-5 first-quarter advantage.
Shots began to fall for Lutheran and they were able to move closer on the scoreboard and the score was 34-21 at the end of the third period. Lutheran closed the gap to nine points with just about two minutes remaining. Bayfield adopted a ball-possession style of play so Lutheran quickly fouled the Wolverine player with the ball to send him to the free-throw line in an effort to regain possession by pulling down the rebound of a missed foul shot. But Bayfield hit most of their free throws down the stretch and won the game.
Senior Kole Brandon was the scoring leader for Lutheran in the championship game as he scored 17 points. Teammate Matthew Thompson scored 14 points for the Lions.
“Bayfield is a good team, very physical and they made it hard for us out there tonight,” Brandon, a senior, said. “It was a great last game for us and I give all the glory to God for our team being here tonight in the state championship game. I also thank all my teammates for playing so hard all season and all game and thank all our fans who have cheered for us and supported us all season.”
Lutheran entered the state tournament with an 18-6 overall record and they were seeded 12th in the tournament.
“It was a good season for us,” Brandsma said. “We had six seniors and six juniors on this year's roster. The seniors will graduate and they will be missed, but we have six guys returning to help anchor next season's team. I hope these guys work hard all summer and build a strong foundation for a strong, competitive team next season.”
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