When Nermin Krdzalic went down with a sprained ankle midway through the fourth quarter, Lincoln had a nine-point lead over Brookings. From that point on, the Pats had to hold on – sometimes literally – to a lead they never gave up.
Lincoln’s 53-48 quarterfinal win over the Bobcats on Thursday night at the Arena sends the sixth-seeded Patriots to a Class AA boys state tournament semifinal matchup with Pierre tonight.
The Patriots’ road to the tournament was very similar to the regular season in that there were some ups and downs. Lincoln needed a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to beat Yankton in the first round of district play, then lost a one-sided game to Brandon Valley.
They answered, however, with an impressive 71-59 road win over Watertown to earn the right to play this week in Sioux Falls.
The win over the Bobcats (17-7), which defeated Lincoln (13-11) during the regular season, was the second part of that answer.
“We moved the ball around pretty well tonight and we got the open looks,” said Lincoln senior Adam Jaros, who led the Patriots with 16 points. “We rotated a lot on defense and we were pretty good on the help side. We made a few mistakes, but that’s going to happen.”
The Bobcats had a 23-21 lead at half, but the Pats outscored them 15-10 in the second quarter. They followed that with another strong quarter, taking the lead for the first time on a Jaros 3-pointer that made it 29-28 lead. Addison Park’s layup in the last minute gave Lincoln a 39-34 lead going into the fourth.
When Krdzalic went down with a sprained ankle, the Bobcats immediately increased the pressure on the Lincoln backcourt. With 2:34 to play, Tyler Nagy converted his sixth consecutive free throw to narrow the margin to 44-43.
He made a jumper with 1:43 to play to again shave the deficit to one point, but Luke Meyers made three out of four free throws in the last minute and Jaros added two more with 3.8 seconds to play to put it out of reach.
“They were able to turn things around tonight,” Patriots coach Jeff Halseth said. “At the beginning we were throwing passes all over the place. But they settled in a little bit, got the jitters out, and moved the ball around and got inside.”
The Bobcats made 18 of 22 free throws but suffered from a 4-of-16 shooting performance in the second half. Even with that working against them, the contest was in doubt until the final seconds.
“We got sloppy with some of our possessions,” said Brookings coach Travis Engebretson. “We didn’t have a ton of turnovers, but the ones we did have were costly. We put ourselves in some bad possessions when we were making a run.
“It was a one-possession game and Lincoln knocked down those two free throws to ice it at the end, but in a one-possession game you can look at a number of things and wish they would have gone differently.”
Park added 12 points for the Patriots, who shot 8-for-16 from the field in the second half.
Halseth said Krdzalic’s availability would be a decision made today. He had his ankle on ice and was limping along on crutches when he left the locker room, but there was no fracture.
“It’s stable, but it’s painful,” Halseth said. “There’s a chance he can play. Our trainers will work their magic and hopefully he’ll be able to go.”
Krdzalic 1-4 0-0 2, Rector 2-8 0-0 5, Krause 3-5 0-0 7, Jaros 3-7 8-9 16, Park 5-13 1-2 12, Burchill 0-1 0-0 0, Meyers 0-0 3-4 3, Dunn 2-4 4-4 8. Totals: 16-42 16-19 53.
Carlson 1-9 1-2 3, Vig 3-7 6-7 13, Nagy 3-14 9-0 16, Page 2-2 0-0 4, Daniel 0-0 1-2 1, Beste 3-5 0-0 8, Moret 1-1 1-1 3. Totals: 13-38 18-22 48.
Lincoln 6 21 39 53
Brookings 13 23 34 48
3-pointers: SFL 5-17 (Krdzalic 0-2, Rector 1-3, Krause 1-1, Jaros 21-5, Park 1-5, Burchill 0-1), Brookings 4-18 (Carlson 0-6, Vig 1-1, Nagy 1-7, Beste 2-4). Rebounds: SFL 29 (Park 7), Brookings 26 (Carlson 8). Assists: SFL 9 (Krause 2, Jaros 2), Brookings 7 (Nagy 9). Total fouls: SFL 16, Brookings 17.