After being upset in semis 2 years in a row, Mott-Regent beats New England to reach District 13 championship
The third try was the charmed one for the Mott-Regent boys basketball team.
Though it has been the No. 1 seed in the District 13 Tournament for the three consecutive seasons, the Wildfire had always struggled in the semifinals after receiving an opening-round bye.
Not Saturday night, though.
Senior Taylor Zentner had 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals to lead Mott-Regent to a 62-45 victory over fifth-seeded New England at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
"It feels just like we all thought it would," Mott-Regent head coach Wayne Heckaman said.
Now the Wildfire (14-6) will face defending district champion Heart River (16-4) at 7 p.m. Monday as they try to win their first district title since 2007.
"Everyone knows the last two years, the number-one seed hasn't been too kind to us and these guys, since the start of the year, everybody counted us out," Heckaman said. "Nobody thought we'd even get to the number-one seed."
The Wildfire played like the top team in the tournament, breaking loose on an 11-0 run in the first quarter that gave them a 15-9 lead.
They kept New England
(10-11) at a distance the rest of the way, leading 30-22 at halftime and using a couple big plays by Zentner to give themselves a 45-31 lead late in the third quarter.
Zentner scored on an alley-oop layup off an in-bounds pass and then converted a four-point play after being fouled while making a 3-pointer.
He scored nine of his points in the third.
"All the guys have a lot of faith in me," Zentner said. "They believe I can get the job done and I know I can put the ball in the hole."
Tyler Zentner -- Taylor Zentner's brother and a junior -- was just as strong in the post as his sibling was on the perimeter, scoring 17 points and grabbing four rebounds.
Jonah Honeyman added eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Wildfire while Logan Haberstroh scored eight.
New England head coach Luke Powers said he had hoped his team had another comeback in it -- the Tigers rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat Hettinger-Scranton on Friday in the opening round -- but said it wasn't easy the way Mott-Regent was playing.
"Tonight, it was a little bit too much to overcome," Powers said. "That's the best I've seen them play. That's probably the ninth time I've seen them play this year. I've scouted 'em like crazy because I knew at some point we were going to have to play them in a big game. That's the best I've seen them play."
Senior Levi Hollinger had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Sophomore Daniel Prince added 14 points.
The Tigers face sixth-seeded Beach (2-17) at 5:30 p.m. Monday in a region-qualifier game.
"We gave ourselves a chance and it didn't pan out," Powers said. "But we still have an opportunity to make the region and that's what it's all about."
NE 9 22 32 45
MR 15 30 45 57
NE: Levi Hollinger 17, Daniel Prince 15, Austin Fitterer 4, Lane Herberholz 3, Alex Nielsen 3, Brady Bender 2, John Urlacher 2.
MR: Taylor Zentner 17, Tyler Zentner 17, Logan Haberstroh 8, Jonah Honeyman 5, Jacob Greff 5, Brett Messmer 4, Austin Kautzman 3.
3-pointers: NE 4 (Hollinger 2, Prince 2), MR 4 (Tay. Zentner 3, Kautzman 1). Free throws: NE 13-25, MR 12-22. Total fouls: NE 20, MR 22. Fouled out: Hollinger, Ty. Zentner, Haberstroh. Rebounds: NE 24 (Hollinger 7), MR 36 (Jonah Honeyman 12).
Assists: NE 12 (Fitterer 7), MR 14 (Tay. Zentner 7). Steals: NE 5 (Herberholz 2), MR 11 (Tay. Zentner 5). Blocks NE 3 (Bender 2), MR 1 (Tay. Zentner). Turnovers: NE 17, MR 14.