Rangers shorthanded at wrong time
Duluth East showed why it was the top seed during a 77-39 blowout of Forest Lake in last Tuesday’s Section 7AAAA semifinals. The Greyhounds, ranked eighth in Minnesota, went on to advance to the state tournament, while the Rangers finished the season with a record of 12-16.
An already tall task got even taller for the Rangers when three starters were held out of the game for disciplinary reasons. Combined with injuries, that left coach Dan Cremisino with only six active players with significant varsity experience.
“We needed guys to have career games and that really didn’t happen for anybody,” he said. “We needed everybody to just have the best games of their lives and that’s a lot to ask when you have guys playing roles they’re not familiar with or haven’t played before.”
Forest Lake fell behind by double-digits early but remained within 10 points as the clock wound under five minutes in the first half thanks to back-to-back buckets by sophomore Matt Degendorfer.
Led by senior stars Taylor Stafford and Johnny Woodard, however, the Greyhounds closed the half on an 11-0 run to take a 40-19 lead into the locker room.
Duluth East scored off turnovers by trapping and applying full-court pressure. The lead got out of hand as the Rangers instinctively played at a faster pace once falling well behind.
“As much as you want to tell the kids there’s still a half left and you have to stick to gameplan, the obvious response is to try to hurry,” Cremisino said.
Woodard scored a game-high 26 points and Stafford scored 24. Degendorfer paced Forest Lake with 11 and senior Dusty Boyer added seven. The Rangers shot just 34 percent from the field, including 3-13 from beyond the arc.
Seniors Jackson McDowell, Tyler Rosenberger and Hunter Smith – the team’s three captains – were suspended from the game for violating the school code of conduct, school officials confirmed.
“We had a real nice gameplan going in, and had worked on it all week and even when getting ready for St. Francis [the week before],” said Cremisino. “The problem we had was the guys we asked to carry out the gameplan, they just weren’t able to do so.”
Duluth East reached state for the second year in a row by topping Blaine 64-62 in the section final.
After going 17-11 last winter, Cremisino was cautiously optimistic entering this season. He seldom had the full squad at his disposal, though. Players combined to miss between 70 and 80 games due to a rash of injuries and some rules infractions, he estimated.
Junior Noah Davis was in the midst of a breakout season, but lingering injuries limited him to 18 full games. Rosenberger, the team’s second-leading scorer behind Davis, was also plagued on and off with injuries.
The flip side is that several underclassmen got significant playing time. Junior Anthony Tyler was third on the team in scoring and should form a nice core with Davis and Degendorfer next year.
“I really, really think we have some young players we will be able to mix in with some of the kids we have returning and we will be able to have a much better year than we did this year,” Cremisino said.
Tuesday, March 13
Forest Lake 19 20 – 39
Duluth East 40 37 – 77
Rangers Pts. Reb. Asst.
Degendorfer 11 4 1
D. Boyer 7 1 2
Tyler 6 4 2
Hultgren 6 3 0
LaPlante 6 3 0
Gullikson 3 1 2
T. Boyer 0 1 0
Percentages: FG-34, FT-67. Three-pointers: 3-13. Turnovers: 14. Steals: 8.
Greyhounds: Woodard-26, Stafford-24, Coleman-12, Lochner-10, Faerber-5.
Final Season Statistics
GP PTS 3-FG REB AST STL
Davis 21 298 37-89 134 40 22
T. Rosenberger 21 273 42-126 82 39 51
Tyler 28 234 1-7 91 18 39
Boyer 28 208 51-137 48 17 34
Degendorfer 28 162 35-92 43 18 27
McDowell 19 153 1-4 88 20 18
LaPlante 28 100 3-22 42 13 10
Smith 27 93 9-31 33 83 54
Hultgren 19 38 2-10 60 10 10
Gullikson 27 13 2-7 35 61 21