The basketball season came to an end for the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta boys with a 57-43 loss to Staples-Motley in the Section 6AA-West title game at the University of Minnesota, Morris Tuesday.
The Cardinals take a 24-5 record to the Section 6AA championship Friday at St. Cloud State University where they will face New London-Spicer. The Wildcats defeated Albany 87-62 in the East final Tuesday.
The Tigers were accustomed to overcoming slow starts, especially in Saturday's semifinal win over West Central Area, and found themselves in a 9-0 hole to start Tuesday's game. The Tigers didn't score a point until Cory Hennen's basket with 11:52 left in the first half.
"We played hard, we just didn't win," said coach Mark Torgerson. "They just played great defense."
The Cardinals clamped down on the Tigers and didn't let them run to easy points.
"We average about 70 points a game and they held us in the 40s," Torgerson said. "They got back and we didn't get any layups and fast breaks."
Corey Nohl banked in a three-pointer to pull the Tigers within two points of the lead with five minutes left in the first half, but Staples-Motley methodically put points on the board and had a 21-13 lead with 2:40 remaining.
The Tigers were able get within three on a Lincoln Arnold basket, but Jon Bristow scored with three seconds left for a 24-19 halftime score.
Arnold started the second-half scoring, but then the Tigers committed three quick fouls. Though none were shooting fouls, it put more pressure on the Tigers as the half wore on.
"We talked about keeping them off the free-throw line. I thought we were going to crawl back in it, but they hit a couple of big shots," Torgerson said.
The Tigers got within six points and Derek Wolhowe sank a three-pointer to put Staples-Motley up 43-34. The Cardinals finished off the game by making eight straight free throws.
The difference in the game came at the charity stripe where the Cardinals had a 19-point advantage, hitting 22 of 32, while the Tigers were only 3-of-7.
Arnold finished with a team-high 13 points. Alex Erickson added nine.
Corey Nohl grabbed six rebounds to lead the Tigers. Cory Hennen had five boards.
Jason Johnson was Staples-Motley's force in the middle, leading the team with 15 points.