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Century gives Lakeville North a serious scare, but bows in boys section semifinals

Mar. 9—LAKEVILLE — On Jan. 16, No. 6-ranked Lakeville North beat the Century boys basketball team by 30 points.

Saturday night in the Section 1, Class 4A semifinals, Century had Lakeville North thinking, "Who are these guys?"

They didn't resemble the crew that Lakeville North smacked two months ago. This time, Century scared the daylights out of Lakeville North, the contest in doubt until the final 10 seconds before North finally emerged a 78-71 winner.

It put an end to one of Century's best boys basketball seasons ever, the Panthers finishing 20-8, the most wins in program history.

"We had nothing to lose and we gave it all we had and put it all on the line," said an emotional Shaun Wysocki, the team's senior star forward who finished with 20 points, tied for scoring honors with teammate Blaine Nash. "We played together. We played as a team and did the things we worked on in practice. We were able to come together and stay with them. I love my teammates and my coaches. I'm just glad we were able to end on a good note."

Century first-year coach Adam Girtman has watched his team go through much more ups than downs this season. But there have certainly been some of the latter, possibly topped by that 30-point beat down it suffered at the hands of Lakeville North on Jan. 16.

Girtman said his team never believed that North was anywhere close to 30-points better than them. In fact, in this section semifinal, it showed up a decidedly confident group, putting that on display in taking an immediate 9-2 lead.

It rode its elite athletes — the quickest and highest leaping bunch that Century has ever had — in not only building that lead, but in staying with top-seeded and No. 6-ranked Lakeville North from start to finish.

In such players as seniors Wysocki, Blaine Nash, Jake Wills, junior twins Markes and Denard Simpson, and junior Ricky Wengert, Century has a pack of ultra-quick and pestering defenders. That group, along with others, bothered Lakeville North all night long. It forced a pack of turnovers and converted some of those into layups or dunks.

Girtman thought that would be the case this second time around.

"We came in knowing that Lakeville North is not 30 points better than us," Girtman said. "And we came in knowing that we had a chance to win. We can play with anyone. We are a really good team. That's why we have 20 wins. Defensively, we knew that we could cause problems because Lakeville North doesn't handle pressure very well. And that was an issue for them (Saturday)."

While North did turn the ball over more than it wanted, it also carved up Century's zone defense much of the first half. It did that with ball movement and then its typical uncanny shot making. Lakeville North is led by sweet-shooting 6-foot-6 senior Jack Robison, a University of Wisconsin commit, who seemed to never miss in the opening stanza and finished the game with 21 points. Teammate Matt Drake also found plenty of open spaces in that zone and ended with a game-high 26 points.

But after halftime, Century extended its defense and made things infinitely tougher for Lakeville North. After trailing 41-33 at intermission, Century rode a series of North turnovers and some hot shooting by Nash who came off the bench to have his best game of the season. Nash had six straight points for Century, the final bucket ending an 8-2 Century scoring run, narrowing its deficit to 49-48 with 10 minutes remaining

Good grief, was this different than the last time the teams met.

"It was midseason when we played them last time and we didn't have all of our stuff together," Nash said. "Tonight, we knew our game plan and tried to execute it the best we could. We communicated so much better tonight, offensively and defensively."

Century, which also got 11 key points apiece from Reid Weckwerth and Markes Simpson, came close to keeping pace with Lakeville North the rest of the way. It used a series of Wysocki inside buckets — a few of them old-fashioned 3-point plays as he drew fouls and scored — to be within 73-68 with 1:08 left. Then, a dagger 3-pointer from the corner by Nash with 26 seconds remaining made it a two-point game.

Lakeville North had the answers after that, outscoring Century 5-0 in the final 17 seconds and also benefiting from one questionable Century traveling call.

Still, Century had just about done it, from a 30-point loser to Lakeville North to nearly knocking them off.

Coming that close helped. But for this bunch of Panthers, it was a bitter-sweet end.

"There wasn't a day this past summer that we didn't put the work in," said Weckwerth, one of the team's five seniors. "It hurts now to see everyone sad. But we gave it our all and we had them on the ropes. We can't be mad about anything."

Lakeville North 78, Century 71

No. 4 CENTURY (71)

Jake Wills 0 P; Shaun Wysocki 20 P; Reid Weckwerth 11 P, 3 3-PT; Denard Simpson 3 P; Markes Simpson 11 P; Ricky Wengert 3 P, 1 3-PT; Blaine Nash 20 P, 3 3-PT; Sabir Ahmed 3 P, 1 3-PT.

No. 1 LAKEVILLE NORTH (78)

James Fager 6 P, 1 3-PT; Matt Drake 26 P, 1 3-PT; Adam Mix 2 P; Tyler Christianson 6 P; Jack Robison 21 P; Grant Ryan 5 P; Drew Kolander 5 P; Andrew Quam 7 P, 1 3-PT.

Halftime: LN 41, CENT 33.

Free throws: CENT 14-20, LN 19-28.

Three-point goals: CENT 8, LN 3.