The Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, the top seed in the Section 1A boys basketball tournament took on the fifth-seeded Grand Meadow Superlarks in the section semi-finals Saturday afternoon at the Mayo Civic Auditorium in Rochester, and a crucial 13-5 second half run by the Blossoms provided just enough of a cushion for a 52-49 win.
Blooming Prairie sprinted out to a 6-0 lead to start the game, only to see Grand Meadow rally back with an 8-0 run of their own to take an 8-6 lead. The two teams then battled back and forth for the rest of the half, as Zach Archer scored all six of his points for the Blossoms in the half while teammate Parker Vaith tallied six of his 12 points in the half for Blooming Prairie. Colt Landers, the all-time leading scorer in Grand Meadow Superlarks boys’ basketball history drained one of three 3-point field goals in the half while adding four two-point field goals for 11 of his team-high 17 points as Blooming Prairie led 24-21 at the half.
The Blossoms gained a toe hold in the second half as they broke out of a 28-28 tie with an 8-0 run to make the score 36-28, and they later went on the crucial 13-5 run to push their lead to 11 at 44-33. Blooming Prairie took their biggest lead at 13 at 50-37 with 2:45 to go, but Grand Meadow fought their way back into the game as missed free throws by the Blossoms, who went only 1-7 down the stretch from the line and 9-21 for the game kept the Superlarks around, and a 3-pointer from Ethan Gilbert with 45.8 seconds left cut the BP lead to 51-47. After two more missed free throws, Grand Meadow had a chance to cut the lead to only one possession, but they missed the front end of a one-to-one to keep the lead at four points. Isaac Ille later made one of two free throws for Blooming Prairie with only :05 seconds left to boost the Blossom lead to 52-49, and Grand Meadow, who was out of timeouts saw a desperation heave from guard Ben Kraft clang off the rim from about 60 feet at the buzzer to enable Blooming Prairie to hold on for the win.
Parker Vaith, Drew Kittleson and Gabe Hagen each scored 12 points to lead Blooming Prairie offensivley, while Hagen added seven assists and five rebounds. Kaden Thomas added seven points, while Zach Archer finished with six points and Isaac Ille added three. For Grand Meadow, Landers led the way with 17 points, while senior Ethan Gilbert finished with 11 points. Guard Ethan Lane added 10 points for the Larks, Ben Kraft scored eight points and Evan Oehlke chipped in four points for the Superlarks, who finish a fantastic sesaon with a record of 21-8.
Blooming Prairie moves to 24-3 with the win, and they will meet Gopher Conference rival and No. 2 seed Hayfield for the Section 1A title Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Mayo Civic Arena. The Vikings rallied behind senior center Luke Dudycha in the second half, as he scored 14 of his 16 points in the second stanza, including going 8 for 8 from the free throw line and Hayfield rallied to down three-seeded Randolph 68-60.