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BOYS BASKETBALL: Grafton stays alive with 55-52 win against Hillsboro-Central Valley in semifinals

Grafton's Brody Nelson (right) passes the ball around Hillsboro-Central Valley's Kyle Henningsgard (15) as he is doubleteamed by Henningsgard and Austin Reed (left) in the second half of Grafton's 55-52 win Tuesday in the semifinals of the Region 2 boy's basketball tournament in Grand Forks.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD1 / 3
Hillsboro-Central Valley's Carter Knutsvig (0) has his shot blocked by Garek Droog (34) of Grafton in Grafton's 55-52 win Tuesday in the semifinals of the Region 2 boy's basketball tournament in Grand Forks.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS2 / 3
Grafton's Austin Contreras (11) drives past Hillsboro-Central Valley's Kyle Henningsgard (15) and two other defenders on his way to the basket in Grafton's 55-52 semifinal win in the Region 2 boy's basketball tournament Tuesday in Grand Forks.JOHN SETNNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD3 / 3

Hunter Baldwin shot from the hip, literally. And that ad-lib attempt kept alive Grafton’s bid for a Region 2 title.

Baldwin’s trey from the top of the key with 32 seconds left lifted the Spoilers to a 55-52 win Tuesday against Hillsboro-Central Valley in the semifinals of the North Dakota Class B Region 2 boys high school basketball tournament.

The win advances the Spoilers to Friday night’s region title game at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center against Cavalier in a rematch of last season’s region final. Defending region champion Cavalier advanced with a strong defensive performance in a 53-40 win against Mayville-Portland-CG.

Grafton 55, Hillsboro-Central Valley 52: With the shot clock about to expire, Baldwin received a pass at the top of the key. He turned and lifted a shot from the side of his hip that was good for a 3-pointer to break a 52-52 tie.

“I knew I had to shoot quickly if I got it,” Baldwin said. “When it was kicked out to me, I saw somebody coming for a block. If I shot the way I normally do, it would have been blocked. So I threw it up from my hip.

“That’s probably the first time I’ve ever shot from the hip. I was surprised it went in.”

Said Spoilers coach Riley Lillemoen: “We don’t teach (shooting) that way. But it went in. That’s all that matters. Hunter’s come up with big shots all year.”

Hillsboro-CV had two more possessions. The Burros turned the first over on a Julian Martinez interception. After Grafton missed a free throw, H-CV got the ball back, but a late trey attempt was blocked by 6-foot-6 Spoilers center Garek Droog, his fourth of the game.

“Droog made a great play on that block,” H-CV coach Elliot Rotvold said. “That’s our bread-and-butter play.”

Hillsboro-CV made a comeback to make it a down-to-the-wire game. The Burros trailed by as many as 11 in the first half and eight in the third quarter. But the Burros, behind Kyle Henningsgard and Austin Reed, rallied.

The freshmen combined to score 12 of H-CV’s 16 points in the final quarter. The Burros took two-point leads three times in the quarter, the last at 52-50 with 1:54 left on a pair of Reed free throws. But Zak Hernandez hit two free throws with 1:28 left to tie the score at 52.

“It came down to the first half,” Rotvold said. “We let them dictate play. We didn’t match up with their physical play in the first half.”

Austin Contreras led Grafton with 23 points. Baldwin and Droog each scored 10, with Droog grabbing 15 rebounds. Reed scored 18 and Thomas Meyer 14 to pace the Burros.

Cavalier 54, Mayville-Portland-CG 40: The Tornadoes tightened their defense in the second half.

Mayville-Portland-CG led 28-25 at intermission. But Cavalier scored the first 16 points of the third quarter and had a 24-1 run before the Patriots hit their first field goal of the half, with 4:04 remaining.

“That’s probably the best half of defense we’ve played all year,” junior Brock Robbins said. “We played bad defense in the first half. We wanted to get on them in the second. And we needed to find a way to score. We got points off the turnovers.”

In the third quarter, The Patriots had eight turnovers, which Cavalier converted into eight points. May-Port-CG was 0-for-6 from the field, with two of the attempts being blocked. Twice on Patriot misses, Robbins rebounded and threw outlet passes to Ryan Chrest for breakaway layups.

“We were too passive in the first half,” Cavalier coach Bryce Laxdal said. “We needed to turn it up.

“We can play defense. I didn’t think we would hold them to one (in the third). But I knew we could create some turnovers and get some easy baskets. That’s our game.”

Chrest’s 22 points led the Tornadoes, with Robbins and Dean Bjornson each scoring 10.

The second half was a reversal of the first, in which the Patriots led most of the way. They built their lead to as many as six points.

“We were able to set up our offense,” MPCG coach Kyle Morehart said of the first half.

“They really picked it up (in the second half). They were awakened by our first-half performance.”

Connor Moore had 10 points to lead the Patriots.