Tigers clash with Orono for trip to state tourney
BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Maybe Delano guard Sean Campbell was immune to adversity, but the junior’s positive attitude never wavered when the team’s two taller players fouled out with the score tied late in the section semifinal game against top seed Big Lake Saturday in St. Cloud.
“I wasn’t surprised at all we beat Big Lake,” proclaimed Campbell after his 3-point basket at the buzzer gave No. 4 seed Delano a 53-50 triumph and a return trip to the Class 3A, Section 5 title game against Orono, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 6 at St. Cloud State. “We have been playing really well as a team and everything has been flowing, plus our shots have been dropping.”
Campbell in particular has been feeling it, especially from long range. He netted 24 points in Delano’s 72-60 win over Monticello in the section quarterfinals.
Defense was the key to Delano’s 24-15 halftime lead against Big Lake when the top three scorers had 10 points total. Fans and coaches may have been anxious once 6-6 senior senior Damon Longstreet fouled out with 2:30 left in the game. The team’s other tall player, 6-7 sophomore Matt Kreklow, fouled out with about 1:20 left.
Big Lake stormed back to tie the game at 50 with 20 seconds to play. Senior Seth Norling attacked the basket, but his shot was blocked out of bounds with three seconds left. After a timeout, Campbell got open for the game-winning shot.
Campbell led with 18 points, followed by Longstreet with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Coach Terry Techam said Kreklow played outstanding defense, plus scored nine points with six rebounds.
Norling also played great defense, scoring six points with eight assists. Austin Neisen grabbed five key offensive rebounds and made two clutch free throws down the stretch. Sophomore Nate Norman came off the bench at the end to make a key free throw in the final minute.
Campbell said he was optimistic his team could still pull off the upset despite the adversity. The team had to overcome the loss of leading scorer Toby Hanson to a broken wrist after averaging 20 points per game. He also has played with the young Tiger reserves in recent years and had complete confidence that Delano would win the game.
“We have been playing good defense and are patient on offense, looking for open shots,” said Campbell, who picked up his scoring pace after Hanson went out. “We are moving the ball and setting solid screens to get players open for good shots.”
Orono, the No. 2 seed at 20-8, advanced with a 62-42 win over St. Cloud Apollo. Delano improved to 17-11.
Campbell said he played in the last minute of the state tournament game loss last season and wants to go back and see a little more of the court.
“I mainly played junior varsity last year, but I got to practice with the older guys, which helped me to be a better player,” said Campbell. “Toby has also been giving me a lot of tips. Plus, it is very motivating to have Toby came to every one of our 5 a.m. practices and see someone so dedicated.”
Delano defeated Monticello 72-60 in section quarterfinals. The Tigers got off to a great 14-0 start. Campbell made a 3-point basket at the buzzer to give Delano a 30-24 halftime lead.
Monticello scored the first six points of the second half to tie the score at 30. From that point Delano went on a 23-9 run to go up 53-39. The score was 60-43 with 2:40 left when Monticello started making every shot to cut the lead to 66-58. The Tigers make their free throws down the stretch to win by 12.
Campbell powered the offense with 24 points. Longstreet had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Norling scored 12 points with six assists and five rebounds. Kreklow had five rebounds and four assists. Neisen helped with six points, four rebounds and three assists.
Top reserves have been Seth MacLeod, Norman, Lucas Clements and Jason McDonald.
“It has taken the team a while to figure out how to play without Toby, but we also played some very good teams while he was out,” said Techam about falling to Orono, Holy Family and Waconia. All three are playing in section title games.”
Techam said he did not change team tactics when Hanson was injured, continuing to focus on defense and getting good shots.
“I think everyone is starting to feel a little more comfortable with their role,” adds Techam. “Orono is very aggressive and will pressure the whole game. One the main keys will be taking care of the basketball and limiting the number of fast break opportunities they get.”