New Town ousts previously unbeaten GroversMINOT — A furious comeback came up short for Fargo Oak Grove. As a result, so did the Grovers’ bid for a championship in the Class B boys basketball tournament.
By: Greg DeVillers, Forum Communications Co.
MINOT — A furious comeback came up short for Fargo Oak Grove.
As a result, so did the Grovers’ bid for a championship in the Class B boys basketball tournament.
Oak Grove, down by 18 points early in the fourth quarter, rallied to within two. But that’s as close as the Grovers got, dropping a 66-64 decision to New Town in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
It marked the second straight season in which Oak Grove took an undefeated record into the state tournament and lost in the first round.
“It’s a pretty sour taste,” Grovers senior Evan Holt said. “It’s a big letdown. We wanted to get to the championship. We might have been looking ahead (to the final) too much.”
New Town, which led 16-14, 26-20 and 46-35 at the quarter breaks, was paced by Mike Young Bird’s 18 points.
Preston Smith added 13 points, to go with 22 rebounds and five assists.
Oak Grove never led in the final three quarters. New Town broke the game open with a 13-2 run at the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarters to build a 53-35 lead with 6:13 left. Reserve Donovan Lambert was the sparkplug, as he scored 11 of those points, nine of them on three 3-pointers.
The lead was safe — barely.
“It seems like every game’s been like that — get a big lead and it tends to slip away,” said New Town coach Chuck Hunter, whose team improved to 24-1.
Oak Grove used a 9-0 run to whittle its deficit to 58-53. After the Eagles rebuilt the advantage to 62-56 with 24 seconds left on a free throw by Lambert, who finished with 16 points, Shayden Akason’s trey made it 62-59.
Alex Baker’s four free throws in the final 18 seconds were enough to hold off the Grovers, who got within 64-62 and the final 66-64 margin.
“The guys kept saying, ‘We have a shot,’” Oak Grove coach Kyle Card said.
“You have to give our guys credit. They busted their butts. But it was too big of a hole. The shots wouldn’t go down. And give New Town credit. We tried different defenses. They just kept putting shots in.”
Oak Grove wound up with 82 field-goal attempts, but made only 22 (27 percent).
That defense “was a bit of a surprise,” Hunter said. “We know we can do it. But it depends on how well we do it.
“It was pressuring the ball. It starts with the press, and we get a hand up on every shot. We’ve had games where, with our athletic ability, (defense) helped us a lot.”
Holt finished with 26 points and Akason scored 19 to pace 25-1 Oak Grove.
“We just couldn’t make anything until the end,” Holt said. “It was a little too late by then.”