by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Robbinsdale Cooper and Rashad Vaughn outlasted host Maple Grove 78-67 in a Section 5 boys’ basketball game in front of a packed house March 7.
Fans along with basketball celebrities including Flip Saunders, Tubby Smith and other scouts showed up to catch the match up between two of the most athletic teams around. Cooper boosted Vaughn, one of the most highly-recruited players in Minnesota, while the Crimson featured the conference’s most talented senior trio in Brycen Wojta, Jake Wieneke and Erik Olson.
The Crimson had defeated Cooper in a close game two months ago and the rematch was close for most of the way until the Hawks pulled away in the second half. Crimson coach Nick Schroeder said it was easy to explain why Cooper won the game.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well, they shot very well,” Schroeder said. “Cooper shot 68 percent in the first half and I think they shot about that for the game. It’s not just Rashad. They had other guys hitting threes and one of them finished 4 for 8. For us, shots we had been making the last few games just weren’t going down. On top of that they out rebounded us by 10. Cooper is not a one-man team. If they can get other guys to step up like that night they are going to be tough to beat.”
The Crimson were able to battle Cooper evenly in the first half, thanks to Olson, who had a career night to remember. Olson started red hot and scored 15 points in the first 10 minutes to spark Maple Grove to a 24-20 lead midway through the first half. But Cooper went on a 7-0 run and Vaughn ignited the Cooper fans with a slam dunk late in the half. The Hawks led 39-33 at halftime.
The Crimson opened the second half in good shape as Wieneke found his shooting stroke and sparked MG to a 9-2 run that put the Crimson up 42-41. Olson continued to be a beast under the boards as he repeatedly came up with offensive rebounds and put backs an on defense blocked or changed numerous Cooper shots. But the Crimson shooting, other than Olson’s inside baskets, went cold, especially from the outside. The Hawks took advantage and Vaughn led the decisive run that saw Cooper taking control with a 67-56 lead with under 5 minutes to play. The Crimson, a solid three-point shooting team, finished just 3 for 21 for the game from beyond the arch and could not rally.
Vaughn impressed the basketball experts with his smooth shooting and passing and finished with 28 points.
“We did a couple things to try to contain Vaughn but you are not going to stop him,” Schroeder said. “What hurt us was their other guys. It was not Rashad that beat us it’s their role guys that got us. Hats off to them. They played extremely well. They were balanced, they were better that night.”
Olson must have turned some heads with his monster night. The senior center finished with a career-high 33 points and set a school single game record with 15 field goals. He also grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots. He finished the season with a single season record of 71 blocks, setting a school record with his swat of Vaughn on a second-half lay-up attempt. Wieneke finished with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Senior Grant Kaufman added 8 points and Wojta had four points and eight assists.
“Erik had his best game,” Schroeder said. “He has been working really hard to finish well. He was getting offensive boards and put backs and our guys were finding him and he was finishing well. Jake stepped up huge for us and he had a good game with his aggressiveness. Brycen had a tough night shooting the ball but he still had eight assists. That’s part of his game that really helped our team.”
The loss ended a fun season filled with exciting games in packed gyms and many record-setting performances.
“It was a great season, an awesome season,” Schroeder said. “I had a lot of fun and we broke tons of records. Wins and losses aside, this group of guys was outstanding to coach. They are fun, always positive and always supportive of each other. They were just great kids in the classroom and community and I never had to worry about them. Every year there is always some kind of things you have to deal with. This year it’s not like that. It’s a tribute to their work ethnics and their accountability to their school and team.”
The Crimson will lose seniors in Wojta, Wieneke, Olson, Kaufman, Brandon Barta and Austin Paul.
“It’s going to be tough to replace these guys. It’s a special group and we will miss them,” Schroeder said. “Hopefully they set the tone for classes to come.”
Contact Bob San at firstname.lastname@example.org