MINOT – So close.
The Four Winds-Minnewaukan Indians bid to claim the first state championship in the school’s history came to a painful end on Saturday evening in front of a large crowd in the Minot State University Dome.
Actually, the pain for Four Winds-Minnewaukan started early. One of the state’s most prolific scoring teams, the Indians’ offense went colder than a polar bear’s toes in an Arctic blizzard throughout their 66-60 setback to Milnor in the championship game of the 2013 North Dakota Class B State Basketball Tournament.
Yeah, that cold.
“We battled, but we just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole,” said Four Winds-Minnewaukan head coach Rick Smith. “It just wasn’t our night.”
As a team, the Indians shot just 33.8 percent from the field in the contest, hitting just 23 of their 68 attempts.
Even with the cold shooting, the Indians almost completed their magical run. Four Winds-Minnewaukan looked as if it had shaken its offensive chills early in the fourth quarter. The Indians staged a solid run early in the fourth quarter and pulled to within three, at 53-50, with 4:30 when senior Austin Longie pulled up and drained a three-pointer from the right wing.
Longie finished the contest with a team-high 24 points.
Longie’s basket highlighted a run that helped the Indians erase a six-point deficit earlier in the frame.
That was as close as Four Winds-Minnewaukan could get.
Milnor, which finished its season at 24-6, answered the Indians’ challenge with bomb of its own. Milnor junior Briton Bussman followed Longie’s long-range shot with a trey of his own and pushed the Bison lead back to six.
Four Winds-Minnewaukan’s offensive shooting woes return from there. The Indians managed just three free throws over the finale 3:30 of the contest.
Milnor didn’t waste any time in putting the Indians in a hole. The Bison scored the first three buckets of the contest and streaked to a 6-0 advantage before Four Winds-Minnewaukan managed to get its offense untracked.
Longie and Collin Delorme brought the Indians back to within 7-6 midway through the period by combining for six unanswered points.
Delorme also reached double figures in the contest, amassing 11 points. He also keyed the FW-M defense with 12 rebounds.
Bussman, who finished the game with 28 points and was named the tournament MVP, pushed in two shots from the field in the final three minutes and helped the Bison sneak into the second quarter holding a slim 11-10 cushion.
Bussman helped Milnor break open the game midway through the second. With Four Winds-Minnewaukan trailing by just two at 18-16, the MHS star gave the Bison a 5-point cushion by sinking a three-point shot with 4:07 left in the first half.
Page 2 of 2 - Hadley Smith erased any momentum Bussman’s shot may have generated seconds later when he knocked down a trey from the wing and pulled the Indians back to within two, at 21-19.
Smith finished the game as FW-M’s second-leading scorer with 12 points.
The Bison did managed to stretch their lead over the final three minutes of the first half. Milnor used a 10-6 run during that span to build a slim 31-25 halftime cushion.
The start of the second half looked dismal for the Indians. Milnor opened the third quarter by breaking off a 14-6 spree that gave the Bison a 14-point lead, at 45-31, with less than three minutes left in the frame.
Steve Redfox breathed new life into the Four Winds-Minnewaukan offense from there. The eighth-grade standout came off the bench and buried an 18-footer that ignited a 10-2 run by the Indians over the final 2:08 of the period.
The Indians’ refusal to go down quietly didn’t surprise Milnor head coach Ben Nelson. He said he expected the FW-M to heat up and make a run at some point.
“We knew they were good shooters, and that eventually they’d start to hit some,” he said.
Four Winds went into the start of the fourth quarter down by just five, at 48-43.
Bussman, Wyatt Mund and Colin Yagow all pushed in points to start the fourth and padded Milnor’s advantage to 53-45 with just over 5 minutes remaining.
Smith ignited the Indians’ final push moments later. He hit a jumper from the free throw line that pulled Four Winds-Minnewaukan to within 53-47, and set up Longie’s three-point bomb.
With its runner-up finish, the Indians attained their highest finish in the Class B state tournament. The team had placed fifth in each of its previous two trips, in 2007 and 2008.
Trenton defeated Linton/Litchville-Marion by a slim 43-42 margin to take third overall, while Dickinson Trinity earned fifth with a 57-54 win over Rugby. Shiloh Christian, by virtue of its 69-61 win over Cavalier, placed seventh.
N.D. Class B State Basketball Tournament
Milnor 67, Four Winds-Minnewaukan 60
Milnor 11 20 17 19 — 67
Four Winds-Minn. 10 15 18 17 — 60
Milnor — Britton Bussman 28, Andrew Martinson 3, Landon Mund 13, Colin Yagow 8, Wyatt Mund 12, Noah Knutson 3
Four Winds-Minnewaukan — Collin Delorme 11, Austin Longie 24, Ryan Hill 6, Hadley Smith 12, Trayvon McKay 5, Steve Redfox 2