By Matthew Davis
Even a big lead could not contain the one thorn in Champlin Park’s side in the Class 4A Section 5 championship basketball game on Friday, March 7.
After building a 44-27 lead through the early part of the second half, the Rebels saw their lead and state tournament hopes dashed by Osseo and 23 points by 6-9 senior forward Ian Theisen. He had a game-high 23 points to lift the Orioles past the Rebels 72-67 in overtime.
“We don’t have the size they have, and they’ve got some determination,” Rebels coach Mark Tuchscherer said.
Prior to Theisen’s dominance in the paint during the second half, the Rebels had their way before a packed house at Rogers High School.
Rebels junior guard Marty Hill sparked his team offensively for an early 13-7 lead. Hill buried a three-pointer after two previous baskets, and his team cleared the bench going into the timeout at 12:57.
Senior guard Alec Leabo picked up a couple steals and buried a three-pointer to give the Rebels a 20-7 lead. Rebels senior forward Brennan Witt made strong plays in the paint with points, rebounds and a block. While the Orioles did chip at the lead with a 6-0 run, senior guard Ian Smith’s last-second layup kept the lead in double digits at 39-27 for the half.
“We hit a lot of threes in the first half and the start of the second half,” Tuchscherer said. “And then we went cold, we didn’t shoot the ball well.”
A quick 5-0 run by the Rebels to start the second half created a 44-27 cushion. The Rebels also had been containing Orioles star senior guard Wheeler Baker, who finished with seven points. However, the Rebels did not have an answer for Theisen in the second half, and momentum shifted in the Orioles’ favor once Theisen started getting his way in the paint.
“They were really good at feeding off their crowd and the momentum,” Leabo said.
He scored the bulk of his 23 in the half, and he tied the game for the Orioles at 59-59 with 3:45 left in the game. The Rebels went the last 3:45 without a field goal, and it took a free-throw by Rebels junior guard JT Gibson with 6. 5 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
“I don’t think we ran like we could have in the second half,” Tuchscherer said.
Scoring struggles continued for the Rebels as they were outscored 12-7 in the extra period. Hill’s baseline drive for a basket put the Rebels within two, 65-63 with 1:24 left. However, the Rebels lost the free-throw battle in the waning seconds as Osseo’s Giovanni Pastrano iced the game with 3-4 free throw shooting.
“We let tonight slip away, but a great season, a great team led by four great seniors,” Tuchscherer said.
The loss ends a 25-3 season for the Rebels, their fewest losses in school history. Two of those losses came against the Orioles.
“These boys have a lot of character,” Tuchscherer said. “They worked together like no other team before as far as playing together and working together to accomplish their goals.”
The Rebels also had won the Northwest Suburban Conference title, the third in school history. Four key seniors will graduate from the team, including leading scorer Witt. But, plenty of talent will return for a Rebels program that has produced 18-plus wins for the past five seasons.
“We’ve built something pretty special here,” Tuchscherer said.
Contact Matthew Davis at [email protected]