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BOYS BASKETBALL: Green Wave slips past Barnesville 56-54 in Section 8AA title game

BEMIDJI — For the first time since 1971, East Grand Forks Senior High basketball fans, coaches and players are making plans to attend the Minnesota state boys basketball tournament.

The Green Wave punched their ticket to Minneapolis on Friday night at the Bemidji State University gym when the Wave slipped past Barnesville 56-54 in the Section 8AA title game.

The victory wasn’t assured until Barnesville’s drive-in shot at the buzzer slid off the rim and onto the floor.

“It’s tough to describe the feeling but there is a lot of happiness and a lot of joy,” said Senior High coach Travis Lindgren following the medal ceremony. “I’m really proud of these guys. They are outstanding student-athletes and are character guys. They really deserve a moment like this.”

Jim Warmack had another big game for the Wave, finishing with 20 points. Ty Misialek complemented Warmack with 15 points.

Had the shot at the buzzer by Barnesville guard Michael Strand slid left instead of right after bouncing off the back rim, the outcome might have been different.

“I had fun playing this game, until I missed the final shot,” said Strand, who scored 30 points. “I thought it would be a close game and they played a heck of a game.”

So did Strand.

“Michael’s a special guy,” said Barnesville coach Todd Henrickson. “He’s the type of person you get to coach once in a lifetime and I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach him.”

The Green Wave also had a go-to guy in the 6-foot-7 Warmack. The senior had four points at the break but scored 16 in the second half. He was the center of attention for his teammates and for the defense.

“At half the coach talked about getting it inside,” Warmack said. “If we got it inside it would be easier for the shooters to shoot. My height helped me a lot but my teammates were able to find me when I was open.”

Nothing was decided in the first 18 minutes as the teams headed to the locker room knotted at 26-26.

Both squads tried to develop an inside game and at times the tactic worked. Senior High’s main early weapon was Misalek, who scored 12 points in the first half — 10 from the paint and two from the free throw line.

Barnesville countered with Strand. The senior guard had 13 points at the break and also dished numerous assists.

The second half opened with Senior High taking control. An 18-8 run spearheaded by Warmack gave the Green Wave a 44-36 advantage with 10 minutes to play but the Trojans recovered and dominated the action the rest of the way.

With Strand leading the charge, Barnesville forged an 18-10 flurry which knotted the game 54-54 with a minute to go.

Warmack converted a pair of free throws down the stretch which gave the Wave a 56-54 edge and those two points proved to be just enough to send the Green Wave to the state tournament for only the fourth time in the program’s history.

“There was a lot of emotion after the game,” Lindgren said. “The hard work and effort and all the time we put in this year has culminated with this.”

Senior High will take a 20-9 record into the state tournament. Barnesville finished 22-6.

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