Boys Basketball: Patriots crowned 5th at state
Pequot Lakes vs. Maple River in the Class 2A State Consolation Finals Thursday, March 23.
ST. PAUL — Pequot Lakes head coach Rich Spiczka said all week he wanted to play 33 games.
The Patriots not only got to play game 33, but won No. 33 with a 50-43 victory over Maple River to grab the consolation championship in Class 2A Thursday, March 23, at Concordia University in St. Paul.
“The odd thing that we talked about before the game was that for the seniors this was the last game for them regardless of the outcome, which isn’t very common,” Spiczka said. “They earned the right to play 33 and we figured we might as well win. From a program standpoint, we’ve played 66 basketball games the last two years with two trips to the state tournament. This group helped set the bar really high. I hope our guys following them can maintain it and try to keep that level of expectation.”
Brayden Spiczka — coming off his eight-point second-half performance last night — drilled three 3-pointers in the second half Thursday. His third 3-pointer gave the Patriots a 44-41 lead with four minutes left.
Conner Quale chipped in nine points, including 4-of-5 free throws in the closing minutes to help the tired Patriots get the win.
“For Brayden and Conner you don’t know their roles statistically speaking,” Rich Spiczka said. “They do the things that the other people don’t do that there is maybe not a stat for. The biggest thing is we moved the ball and made the play where the play existed and that’s what we talked about all season. Both of them were keys to the runs that we made in the second half.”
Seniors Eli Laposky and Grant Loge led the way with 11 points each. Senior Gavin Kennen fouled out with 5:24 left and finished with six points.
“It all came down to grit,” Laposky said. “We knew this was our last game. We needed to get the job done and at halftime, we just said ‘let’s give it our all and that’s what we did.”
March 23, 2023
The Patriots’ second-half defense held the Eagles to 18 points. It was the second game in a row Pequot held its opponent to under 20 points in the second half.
The Eagles were led by Hayden Niebuhr, a 6-foot-7 senior, who finished with a game-high 23 points.
“The biggest thing was we saw a lot of similar combinations this week,” Rich Spiczka said. “We saw a good big guy and a nice lefty ironically enough. We were able to scheme on the left hand and have them play in the other direction.”
Maple River led 30-21 at the start of the second half. The Patriots chipped away and went on a 15-2 run which was capped by a Laposky 3-pointer.
“I thought defensively we were sound the whole way through,” Rich Spiczka said. “We were pretty sharp in that second half. Part of it is we didn’t have a ton of time to prepare, so we had to make some adjustments. The biggest thing was offensively, they were hedging the ball screens hard, so we just spread them out and kicked it and everything opened up.”
After failing to get to the free throw line much in the first two games at state, the Patriots went 12-for-15 from the line, including 11-14 in the second half.
Maple River took a 25-18 lead into halftime. The Eagles ended the half on a 15-3 run, which lasted the last eight minutes.
Laposky nailed his first two 3-pointers to score his only points of the first half. Niebuhr recorded 11 of his 23 in the first half.
“He took a toll on us,” Loge said. “Two games back-to-back with two physical guys like that. He’s a great player. It was a battle down there.”
Pequot led 15-10 after a Bryar Nordby steal and layup which capped a 7-0 run for the Patriots.
With Pequot playing its third game in three days, Rich Spiczka tried to keep fresh legs with quick substitutions in the first half.
Tired legs led to the Patriots shooting 33.3% from the field and 25% from 3-point in the first half.
“Everyone was tired,” Rich Spiczka said. “Our guys were tired. Their guys were tired. Third game in a row against this type of competition is a tough deal.”
After beating the No. 3 seed and the No. 4 seed to win the consolation finals, Spiczka still feels his team didn’t deserve to be unseeded coming into the week.
“We talked about it as a team and this is no disrespect to the teams we played, but we didn’t deserve to be a random draw,” Rich Spiczka said. “We played a whole season to get a QRF (Quality Results Formula), which was one of the highest in our class and we were the only one not to be seeded. I think we have to look at something at the high school league level to have a better seeding process than what we use.”
No matter the seed, the Patriots end on a win.
“Not many people get to win their last game,” Loge said. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of that and be able to do that. I had a phenomenal career.”
Laposky added: “It’s a great feeling to know that we get to go out on a win. We are one of only 12 teams in the state that get to do that.”
Maple River 25 18 — 43
Pequot Lakes 18 32 — 50
Wyatt Birr 2, Hayden Niebuhr 23, Will Sellers 5, Aaron Pawlitschek 7, Mason Schirmer 6. FG 18-40 (45%), FT 5-9 (55.6%). 3-point 2-13 (15.3%).
Eli Laposky 11, Bryar Nordby 4, Gavin Kennen 6, Grant Loge 11, Conner Quale 9, Brayden Spiczka 9. FG 15-38 (39.5%), FT 12-15 (75%). 3-point 8-22 (36.4%).
Pequot Lakes 50, Maple River 43
Key: Pequot’s second-half defense held Maple River to 18 points.
Overall: PL 27-6, MR 30-4.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.