Rangers try for state berth this week

Forest Lake captains Jake Larson (left), Mitch Jerde, Jack Breitbach and Ryan McGrath will attempt to lead the Rangers to a state berth.
Forest Lake captains Jake Larson (left), Mitch Jerde, Jack Breitbach and Ryan McGrath will attempt to lead the Rangers to a state berth.

The Forest Lake boys basketball team will hope to punch its ticket to the 2017 Class AAAA state tournament this week.

The Rangers, ranked No. 1 in the Section 7AAAA playoffs, cruised through their quarterfinal matchup against No. 8 Cambridge-Isanti, winning 78-61 on Thursday, March 9, in their final home game of the season.

Senior guard Jake Larson and sophomore forward John Schrader each put up 20 points in the victory. Junior forward Thad Ball scored 12, and senior forward Mitch Jerde added 11. Other point-scorers were senior forward Jack Breitbach (six), junior forward Steven Colon (five) and junior forward Connor Hale (four).

The quarterfinal win set up a semifinal matchup against No. 4 Duluth East at North Branch High School on Wednesday, March 15, beginning at 6 p.m., after press time. The Rangers edged East 54-52 in a regular season game on Jan. 31.

With a second win over the Greyhounds, the Rangers would advance to the section championship game on Friday, March 17, at 7 p.m., also at North Branch.

The likelihood of a state trip for the Rangers increased when No. 2 Blaine was upset in the quarterfinals by No. 7 Andover, 59-57. Blaine knocked the Rangers out in the section final last season.

If the Rangers reach this year’s final, they would play either Andover or No. 3 Coon Rapids. The Rangers lost to Coon Rapids 53-52 on a last-second layup in the two teams’ season opener on Dec. 2. That has proven to be the Rangers’ only loss against Section 7AAAA opposition. The Rangers have not played Andover this season.

At press time, the Rangers were 5-1 against sectional opponents and 18-9 overall.