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Boys Basketball: Patriots to face Annandale in state quarterfinals

A preview of Pequot Lakes vs Annandale in the state quarterfinals

Pequot Lakes against Aitkin Boys Basketball
Pequot Lakes coach Rich Spiczka watches as his team goes up against Aitkin in boys basketball Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at Pequot Lakes High School.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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Pequot Lakes head coach Rich Spiczka didn’t want to call it relief, but it was pretty close.

After being the top-seed in Section 7-2A last year, the Patriots lost in the section final to Moose Lake-Willow River at home. This season, as the No. 2 seed, the Patriots upset Esko 58-50 in the section final to advance to their first state tournament since 2007. It was also revenge for a 63-50 loss to the Eskomos earlier in the season.

“It’s always a good win and I don’t know if relief is the right word, but just satisfaction that our kids could get over that hump,” Spiczka said. “I mean we’ve been knocking on the door, I want to say, for three or four years. I thought going into last year the teams were kind of coin flipped. Sure we were the No. 1 seed, but I think if we play 10 times we win five each.

“Going into Thursday, I think we were a pretty sizable underdog (against Esko). We knew we could compete with them, but they were playing at such a level and were a machine the last two or three weeks. Our kids just dug in there and we talked about throughout our preparation that we have to make solid decisions and hang around. Watching us close the game on a 25-5 run up there where Esko probably had 1,000 people there, it was awesome.”

In the Class 2A state tournament, Pequot Lakes (24-6) drew the No. 3 seeded Annandale Cardinals (28-2) for the state quarterfinals. The two teams will face off at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

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The Cardinals come into the matchup riding a 24-game win streak. Annandale’s last loss was Dec. 16 to Albany.

“The win streak goes back to when football season ended,” Annandale head coach Skip Dolan said. “We played pretty much up until Christmas with our two best players and even our third best had a knee injury, so it took us a while to piece it together. Once, we got it rolling, we are very senior oriented. I play six seniors religiously, with them having played together for so long and knowing each other.”

It was Albany who the Cardinals beat in the Section 6-2A final 54-40 to reach the state tournament. During Annandale’s playoff run, it beat Maple Lake 70-21 in the opening round, dispatched Milaca 61-49 in the quarterfinals and defeated Osakis 54-52 in the semifinals.

“They are amazingly well-coached,” Spiczka said of Annandale. “Their executing level is up there with anyone in the state. They execute almost to perfection. They don’t turn the basketball over and in the interior they just beat you up. They are physical and they have no panic and no worry. So we are going to have our hands full.”

Pequot Lakes got past Staples-Motley in the opening round of its tournament 63-46. That was followed by a 62-50 win over Greenway in the quarterfinals. It got revenge over Moose Lake-Willow River in the semifinals 66-59 before dispatching Esko in finals.

“Pequot is well coached, Rich does a nice job with them,” Dolan said. “They have a combination of playing good man-to-man and good zone so I think we have to be ready for both. I think they are quick at the guard position and they have the 6-foot-7 kid in the interior.”

Pequot Lakes’ Eli Laposky leads the team in minutes played and is the leading scorer with 14.4 points a game. The junior also dished out five assists and grabbed 4.4 rebounds a game.

Big man Sam Rysavy isn’t far behind Laposky at 12 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. The senior is also shooting 66.7% from the field.

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Ryan Harmala averages 9.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game. Grant Loge averages 4.1 points a game, but came up huge with 16 points against Esko in the section final. Nic Kotaska is another guard for Pequot who tallies five points and two assists a game.

“Eli and Sam make us good and they are good solid basketball players,” Spiczka said. “But people watch us on film and they are not going to go ‘how to guard this guy or that guy’ it’s more collective. It’s the sum of our parts more so than the individual parts and that’s not a knock on our individual parts, we have some great individual parts, but when we put it all together we are far superior.”

Annandale is led by six seniors all of which play big minutes.

“The senior thing is important,” Dolan said. “You can have some good underclassmen that play at senior status, but there is always a little bit of edge or toughness and resilience that comes from being a senior.”

Brady Spaulding is a 6-7 forward committed to St. John’s University. He led the Cardinals with 19 points in the section final against Albany.

Two senior guards, Carsen Gagnon and Bryce Fobbe, are both 5-9, but Dolan said they have a toughness about them.

Robert Olson is another senior, who at 6-6 plays alongside Spaulding inside. Zach Neutz comes off the bench as a 6-6 post for the Cardinals.

Pequot is one of seven schools in 2022 to send both its boys and girls teams to the state tournament. The girls wrapped up a fifth-place state tournament finish last week.

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“I think it’s great,” Spiczka said. “The girls made it to state which is really hard and then they won 31 basketball games this year and there are not very many teams that can say they won 31 basketball games in a season and they got to win their last one which is a great accomplishment. And I think for our guys watching the girls have success and punching their ticket to state got them a little more focused and hungrier.”

State boys basketball

Who: Pequot Lakes (24-6) vs No. 3 Annandale (28-2)

What: Class 2A State Quarterfinals

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 22

Where: Target Center in Minneapolis

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Related Topics: LOCAL SPORTSBOYS BASKETBALLPEQUOT LAKES PATRIOTS
Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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