Nothing like Melrose to knock the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders out of their post-holiday lethargy.
The Dutchmen always, always play the Crusaders tough and Thursday night at the 16th Annual Crusader Christmas Classic was no exception.
Melrose gave ninth-ranked Cathedral all it could handle before succumbing to the Crusaders, 67-64.
It was one of four quarterfinal games at the eight-team, three-day, traditional-bracket tournament.
Also Thursday, Concordia (Roseville) beat Pierz 90-65, Northfield downed Litchfield 53-51 and Braham beat Mandan (N.D.) 67-44.
“Cathedral and Melrose, Coach (Matt) Meyer told us we always have a good game no matter what the records are or whatever ither team has,” said Crusaders junior forward Brindley Theisen, who had 25 points and seven rebounds while St. Cloud State head coach Kevin Schlagel watched.
“It was a good game,” Theisen continued. “They gave us a good run.”
Cathedral advances to the semifinals against Braham, a rematch of the 2012 Classic final that the Bombers of Westview High won. They play at 7 p.m. Friday.
Concordia and Northfield meet at 5:30 p.m. Melrose plays Mandan (N.D.) at 3:30 p.m.in the consolation semifinals.
Play continues Saturday, with the championship game set for 3 p.m..
“It’s always tough against them,” said Cathedral senior guard Steven Neutzling, who had 12 points, five assists and two steals. “Last year, we came out and didn’t play our game and they won big.
“We definitely had that in the back of our minds.”
Melrose (3-4) was the defending tournament champion. The Dutchmen were No. 1-ranked last year and blew the doors off the Crusaders in the championship game, 94-66.
Just about everybody responsible for that one has earned their diploma, except for Seth Noll. He’s a senior now and headed to Mayville (N.D.) next fall to continue his basketball career.
He pumped in 25 points, several from the parking lot, to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“I didn’t know he had range like that,” Theisen said. “He had a really good game.
“We couldn’t do much about it.”
The Crusaders managed to build a 58-48 lead with 4:07 to play, but Noll made one in traffic on the Dutchmen’s third crack at the basket on one possession to make it 58-50.
Then, Noll sank a 25-footer with 3:29 to go to cut it to 58-53. After Tom Burt made one of two free throws, the Dutchmen’s Cole Van Beck went to the line and made two.
A missed shot and a Melrose rebound and Noll sank another 25-footer to cut the lead to 59-58 with 2:05 to play.
Brady Schmit then drove the lane for a key basket at 1:49 to put the Crusaders up 61-58. Melrose had a turnover and then was forced to foul. Theisen and Schmit went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the waning moments in between a 3-pointer from Melrose’s Isaac Herkenhoff.
Dutchmen sophomore Tyler Braegelmann, making his first varsity start for the ailing Ben Klaphake, heaved up a well-contested prayer as time ran out, missing badly.
That was a collective sigh of relief emitted from Cathedral’s row of chairs on the sideline.
“They (the Dutchmen) come at you,” Cathedral head coach Matt Meyer said. “Seth just kept backing up further and further and we gave him just a little bit of room for him to hit from his spot.
“I thought they had a real good defensive game plan for us. We battled to get that 10-point lead and then it evaporated pretty quickly. That’s what good players do.”
Meyer and Ryan Dusha, the Dutchmen’s head coach, are both Cathedral graduates and former basketball teammates.
Each knows the other and their tendencies pretty well. The secrets are few, even with little preparation because of when the Christmas break broke. No one really prepared for anyone.
“We played really tough against them,” Noll said. “I figured after last year when we won by so many, they wanted to do the same this year.
“It was kind of nice to stick with them. We gave ourselves a chance at the end.”
“We played really hard,” Dusha said. “I’m pleased with the effort …
“With guys like Brindley Theisen on their team, he’s really difficult to defend. Matt (Meyer) did a good job of getting him open in the second half.”
Besides Theisen and Neutzling, the Crusaders got another solid all-round game from Schmit. He wound up with 15 points, three assists and three steals.
He’s looking forward to playing Braham, which is also a member of Section 5-2A like the Crusaders.
“That’s a big sub-section game for us,” Schmit said. “Braham always has good teams.”
MELROSE – Seth Noll 25 (6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals), Cesar Cervantes 6 (5 assists, 2 steals), Cole Van Beck 10, Tyler Braegelmann 10 (12 rebounds, 2 steals), Nathan Goebel 4, Mitchell Moening 2, Isaac Herkenhoff 7, Drake Meyer 0, Zak Luetmer 0. FG 22, FT 10-13, REB 31, ASST 11, ST 7, TO 18, PF 17.
CATHEDRAL – Michael O’Hagan 8, Brindley Theisen 25 (7 rebounds), Steven Neutzling 12 (5 assists, 2 steals), Brady Schmit 15 (3 assists, 3 steals), Tom Burt 1, Isaac Heying 0, Jack Schramel 5, John Peschel 1. FG 20, FT 17-21, REB 26, ASST 12, ST 8, TO 12, PF 17.