North Dakota Region 2 boys basketball tournament: Tornadoes tear on

For most of the season, Cavalier has relied mainly on Brady Robbins and Brandon Chrest to carry the scoring load. The Tornadoes, however, have no shortage of heavy lifters, evidenced by the play of Brennan Thorlakson and Jared Mack -- two players...

Cavalier's Bryce Karel
Cavalier's Bryce Karel (24) pulls the ball away from Hatton-Northwood's Greg Thompson (40) in the second half of Cavalier's 72-65 win Tuesday in the semifinals of the region 2 tournament in Grand Forks. Herald photo by John Stennes.

For most of the season, Cavalier has relied mainly on Brady Robbins and Brandon Chrest to carry the scoring load.

The Tornadoes, however, have no shortage of heavy lifters, evidenced by the play of Brennan Thorlakson and Jared Mack -- two players that came up big with a trip to the regional championship game on the line.

Cavalier's depth paid off in a big way for the Tornadoes on Tuesday night as they beat Hatton-Northwood 72-65 in the semifinal round of the North Dakota Region 2 boys basketball tournament before a near capacity crowd at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

Cavalier (20-3) will meet Grafton (18-5) on Thursday night for the region title and a berth in the state Class B tournament in Minot. The Tornadoes are the defending champion and will look to beat Grafton for a third time this season. Grafton has beaten Cavalier once, that coming in the district tournament.

"It'll be a close, tight game," Cavalier coach Keith Hartz said. "It's a rivalry."


Grafton used its inside game to power past Valley-Edinburg 59-48 in Tuesday's first semifinal.

Cavalier and Hatton-Northwood slugged it out most of the way. But the biggest blows were landed by Thorlakson and Jared Mack. Both scored 16 points, to complement Robbins' 16.

"The difference was our depth," Hartz said.

Chrest, Cavalier's leading scorer, was in foul trouble in the first half. Robbins, meanwhile, fouled out with just over three minutes to play.

But Thorlakson came up with the game's biggest basket, dropping in a 3-pointer for a 58-55 Cavalier lead with 4:33 to go. The senior guard scored on an in-bounds play, dropping in the 3-pointer from the top of the key.

"That was a big basket," Hatton-Northwood coach Keenan Konschak said. "We didn't have that play scouted so I'll take the blame on that one."

But there were other timely baskets as well for Cavalier.

Bryce Karel -- another reserve -- gave Cavalier a 55-53 lead with 5:21 to go. Hatton-Northwood's Greg Thompson tied it 22 seconds later, a basket that led to Thorlakson's big 3-pointer.


Mack delivered the Tornadoes' second-biggest basket when he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with 1:55 to go. That gave Cavalier a 64-61 lead. He then sealed the win with some crucial free throws in the final minute.

"Jared has some baseline moves and he powered it up," Hartz said. "He's a strong kid. He's a worker."

Neither team gained much of a separation. The Thunder, led by Mike Paulson's 30 points, led by five points in the second quarter and by six in the third. Late in the third, however, Robbins scored five straight points to give the Tornadoes a 45-44 lead.

The Thunder managed to build a 50-45 lead with a minute to go in the third. But a Robbins steal and layup and Chrest's layup at the buzzer -- coming on a length-of-the-court inbounds pass from Mack -- left the Tornadoes trailing 50-49 heading into the final quarter.

No more than four points separated the teams until the Tornadoes' cashed in on their free throws in the closing seconds.

"We played three really good quarters," Konschak said. "There were one or two plays here and there that made the difference. And they had us latched down pretty good on defense."

The Thunder dropped to 19-5.

Grafton 59, Valley-Edinburg 48: Grafton advanced to the regional title game behind a strong inside game led by Cody Dravland, a 6-foot-3 senior.


But the Spoilers couldn't shake Valley-Edinburg until the final four minutes. Andrew Evenson's field goal with 3:55 to play cut Grafton's lead to 47-45. But the Spoilers immediately went inside to Dravland, who responded with four straight points in the next 42 seconds to give Grafton some breathing room.

Grafton's inside dominance won out over Valley-Edinburg's perimeter shooting. The Titans, who hit seven 3-pointers, were led by Thomas Shepard's 14 points. Grafton made only one 3-pointer.

"Cody Dravland has been under the radar all season," Grafton coach Mike Hanson said. "He does a heck of a job rebounding."

Grafton led the entire game but Valley-Edinburg's Philip Hurtt scored at the third-quarter buzzer to tie the game at 36-36. Again, Grafton's inside game came through when 6-3 Daniel Salazar scored for a 38-36 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Spoilers protected their lead by solid free-throw shooting in the final minutes. Grafton went 13-for-16 from the line in the fourth quarter.

"I still don't think we're playing our best basketball," Hanson said. "We still can get better. It starts mentally and tomorrow in practice."

The Titans managed to overcome Grafton's size advantage by some ball-hawking defense.

"We gave up 20 points in the first half and eight of those points came off of turnovers on the outlet pass," Hanson said. "But it was a good defensive effort by us in the first half."


Grafton had an outside presence, too, as guard Mike Hanson finished with 14 points.

Valley-Edinburg also received 10 points from Kilen Flanagan.The Titans trailed by eight points midway through the third quarter but closed the session on a 9-2 run, allowing them one last shot at the Spoilers.

Titans' coach Cory Laxdal said Grafton's inside was hard to handle.

"I'm not disappointed in our effort at all," Laxdal said. "We came back and tied it after the third quarter and had some good looks at the basket. We just couldn't knock down some shots.

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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