Fargo North fends off furious Grand Forks Red River comeback to claim Class A boys state championship
The Roughriders rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to tie the game with just over 10 minutes remaining, and Saturday's Class A boys state championship game turned into a shootout to the end.
FARGO — Down 14 points at halftime in the state championship game, Grand Forks Red River appeared primed to make another dramatic comeback Saturday in the North Dakota Class A boys basketball tournament, just as it did against Fargo Davies in Friday’s semifinals.
Fargo North had other plans, surviving the Roughriders’ furious comeback attempt to win 92-83 and claim the Class A boys state championship for the first time since 2006 in front of an electric crowd at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
It’s the fifth title in program history for the Spartans, who were led by the dynamic duo of Jeremiah and Matthew Sem with a combined 51 points.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Jeremiah said. “But I know once I get to the locker room, it’s going to set in.”
The Spartans took a 50-36 lead into the locker room at the half. With Jeremiah Sem — the tournament MVP — sitting at four fouls, the comeback was on for the Roughriders after the break.
A pair of free throws from Red River’s Reis Rowekamp tied the game at 61-61 with 10:22 remaining, and the game turned into a shootout from that point on.
“We just needed to keep the energy,” Jeremiah Sem said. “I needed to keep the guys on the bench going and once I got back in the game, I knew we could get it rolling again.”
Back-to-back triples from Zach Kraft suddenly put the Roughriders up 69-65 with 8:02 to play. The teams traded leads three times before North went up for good on a bucket from Welcome Muhoza, one of the Spartans’ two seniors, that made it 72-71.
Muhoza finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“I had a lot of pressure on my back all year,” Muhoza said. “Knowing I’m one of the only seniors that played. I just had to go out there, prove everyone wrong and play with a chip on my shoulder.”
North’s other senior, John Williams, finished with two points and a steal, coming in for Jeremiah Sem when he was benched with four fouls.
“John Williams is a high-class kid,” North head coach Travis Hoeg said. “At the beginning of the season, I told him that he probably wasn’t going to get a lot of minutes and asked if he’s going to be OK with that. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘Coach, I want to do whatever I can do to help this team win.’ What more can you ask for as a coach?
“Welcome Muhoza is a preacher at his church. Both of those young men are going to join the National Guard and serve our country. They’re incredible young men and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to coach them their senior season.”
The Roughriders kept it close before Matthew Sem put the cherry on top with a slam dunk with 14 seconds remaining, sending the SHAC crowd into a frenzy.
Red River, the No. 3 seed out of the East, finished its season at 19-8.
“The second half, we knew we were going to come back and we knew we were going to make a run,” Roughriders head coach Kirby Krefting said. “But I feel like (North) hit a couple of big shots. You’ve got to give North credit. We felt that we were making our run and things were going our way and then they shut us down. Give them credit.”
Both teams shot 51 percent with North going 34-of-66 from the field and Red River shooting 35-of-68.
Jeremiah Sem led the Spartans with 28 points and seven rebounds. Matthew Sem tacked on 23 points while Carter Zeller finished with 15 points and Muhoza 14.
Zeller paced the Spartans with 10 rebounds to record a double-double.
The Roughriders were led by Rowekamp with 23 points while Zach Kraft finished with 20. Pearce Parks added 19 points while Carter Byron finished with 12.
Kam Klefstad and Logan Arason finished with seven rebounds each for Red River.
The point total of 175 also set a Class A boys tournament record — with Williston and Red River battling to a 174 point showdown in 1968.
The Sem brothers, Zeller, Rowekamp and Kraft were named to the All-Tournament team. Fargo Davies’ Ray Brown and Dan Yorke also received all-tourney honors.
The Spartans, the No. 2 seed from the East, finished their season at 19-8.
Hoeg said he’s thrilled that his team could bring another state title to the northside.
“We’ve got such a great student section, parent section and fan section,” Hoeg said. “Greatest in the (Eastern Dakota Conference). And it helps that it’s in our backyard. But the support we’ve felt this weekend has been phenomenal.”
Halftime: Fargo North 50, Grand Forks Red River 36
RR: Rowekamp 23, Kraft 20, Parks 19, Byron 12, Klefstad 6, Flom 3.
FN: J. Sem 28, M. Sem 23, Zeller 15, Muhoza 14, Bior 4, DeBoer 3, Haugo 3, Williams 2.