Morris Area, the leader in West Central Conference South boys' basketball, fell to North-leading New London-Spicer 76-64 Friday on the road in the inter-conference championship game. With the win the Wildcats claim bragging rights to the conference title.
The Tigers' 12-game winning streak came to an end as they wrapped up the regular season with a 20-4 record. The Wildcats enter the play-off season with a 19-8 overall record.
Next up for the Tigers is the Section 6AA West tournament starting Thursday at Morris. With the No. 1 seed in the sub-section, the Tigers will host Long Prairie-Grey Eagle at 7 p.m.
A win in the quarter-final game would advance the Tigers to play another WCC-South team, either Minnewaska Area or Benson, at 6 p.m. Saturday at the University of Minnesota, Morris.
The sub-section championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17 at UMM.
Prior to Friday's game, the Tigers were ranked No. 6 in the state in Class AA by Minnesota Basketball News.
The Tigers' balance and depth has allowed them to wear down opponents, and coach Mark Torgerson believes that is a big reason why they were able to exceed pre-season expectations.
"We were 10-14 the year before, but we lost a lot of close games and I think that kept them motivated," Torgerson said. "We had three starters back and six of our top eight players back. We expected to have a pretty good year. We didn't get a lot of pre-season notice, but we thought we could contend."
Several Tigers came into the season with varsity experience, including three juniors who started last season. After this season, the team loses five seniors, including three starters, but the program's B squad team was 19-3 this season, the C squad finished 17-4, and the 8th-grade team also played solid ball.
"The future looks really good," he said.
Torgerson credits continuity in his coaching staff for bringing the team together this season. Torgerson is in his 22nd year and he's had the same assistant coaches, Dale Henrich and Jerry Witt, throughout his tenure, and in summer and mid-week camps and leagues.
"Our team chemistry and cohesion has been fantastic," Torgerson said. "That comes from consistency in our coaching staff."
Torgerson and the Tigers will work to continue that consistency into the post-season as the sub-section semi-finals begin Thursday.
Morris Area 64
On Friday, the Wildcats were playing to avenge a 56-53 loss to the Tigers a week prior at Morris.
The Tigers only trailed by three (35-32) at halftime Friday, but the Wildcats sank 17 of 20 shots from the free-throw line in the second half to take a comanding 12-point lead.
Overall, the Wildcats made 75 percent (21-28) of their free throws.
The Tigers were 11-of-19 at the line.
From the field, the Wildcats hit 22 of 55, including nine three-point baskets.
The Tigers hit 26 of 51 with only one three pointer.
The Wildcats also dominated the boards grabbing 39 rebounds, while the Tigers brought down 22.
Jackson Henrich led in both columns for the Tigers, scoring a game-high 24 points and five rebounds.
Chris Scott added 15 points.
Tyler Meichsner dished out three assists and Taylor Nohl recorded two steals to lead the Tigers.
Also scoring for the Tigers were Cory Hennen with eight, Lincoln Arnold with six, Corey Nohl with four, Meichsner, Eric Riley, and Josh Love with two apiece, and Nohl with one.