Tigers face St. Cloud Apollo March 14 at St. Cloud State
by Dave Pedersen
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Delano worked its way to the section boys basketball championship game for the third time in the past four seasons.
After dominating Becker 96-45 to open the playoffs, the Tigers took care of Orono 61-46 Saturday to advance as the number one seed to the title game in the Class 3A, Section 5 tournament. The section title game against St. Cloud Apollo is 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at St. Cloud State.
Apollo is 14-12 and lost at Delano early in the season. Despite not winning a section crown in recent years when coming close, coach Terry Techam said Delano has not changed its approach in the playoffs.
“It is pretty simple- it is one possession at a time,” adds Techam. “We try to get a stop on defense and then try to get a good shot on offense.”
The simple plan worked well in both cases in the first two section playoff games. The Tigers defeated Becker by 51 points and limited a traditionally strong Orono squad to just 46 points.
Delano got off to a great start this season, with senior Zach Checkal leading the offensive attack as the team won games by big margins.
In the second half of the season, Checkal was given more defensive attention by opponents, so he began to spread the ball out to his open teammates.
“We are scoring basically the same number of points as earlier in the year,” notes Techam. “The points are just a little more spread out.”
For example, against Becker Checkal netted just four points when the team scored 96. Senior Dalton Pulis scored 22 points in the first half alone. He finished with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Junior Toby Hanson scored 18 points with seven rebounds and four assists. Junior Damon Longstreet added 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. Senior guard Adam Schleper added nine points and three assists.
In the regular season Delano had four players average in double figures, including Checkal 17.7, Hanson 16.4, Pulis 14 and Longstreet 11.2.
Techam says another strength of the team is the play of the reserves. They have come in and played well when starters get into foul trouble.
Against Becker, senior Zach Muckenhirn had five points, three rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Sean Campbell scored 12 points off the bench, while junior Seth Norling added four points and five assists, senior Arick Neisen had four points and two rebounds and junior Seth MacLeod provided four rebounds and two assists.
Strong starts to games also have been a hallmark of this Tiger team. Against Orono, Delano scored the first 13 points on way to a 36-17 halftime lead.
“Orono is not the type of team to throw in the towel,” worried Techam. “They came out very aggressive in the second half and cut the lead to eight with about seven minutes to play. We responded by scoring the next six points, making some free throws down the stretch to win by 15.”
Longstreet led with 15 points and nine rebounds. Hanson scored 16 points with nine rebounds and both Checkal and Pulis scored 11 points with 10 rebounds.
Techam said Muckenhirn did a nice job filling in for the guys battling foul trouble. Off the bench he had two rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Another factor could be the fans since the title game is in St. Cloud, the home city of Delano’s opponent.
The state tourney opens Wednesday, March 20 at the Target Center. Teams will be seeded and the semifinal round is Thursday afternoon March. 21. The title game is Saturday, March 23.
Contact Dave Pedersen at [email protected]