MENOMONIE — A gargantuan effort got the Colfax boys basketball team to within six points of the lead late in the game.
An even more resounding response from Clear Lake made it all for naught.
The Warriors closed the game on an 18-6 run to pull away for a 67-49 win over the Vikings in the Division 4 sectional semifinals on Thursday night. The finish turned a six-point lead into a cushion that could not be surmounted.
“We kept battling,” Colfax coach Garrett Maas said. “Thought we were going to make the turn, but they came down and executed. Credit to them.”
Clear Lake, the defending sectional champion, clamped down when it mattered most. The Warriors used their size to control the paint and pulled away with most of the points on the late run coming from inside.
Colfax, which started the game ice cold from the field and trailed by as many as 15 early in the second half, warmed up considerably after halftime. The Vikings went on an 11-4 run – powered by seven points from George Scharlau – to get the score to 49-43 with 5:39 left.
But when the Vikings needed to string together stops to fully close the gap on the scoreboard, the Warriors wouldn’t allow it. They worked the ball inside and scored six straight points to restore a double-digit lead and pull out of reach.
“Momentum is so huge in a big game like this,” Clear Lake coach Jason Sargent said. “We knew they were going to make some runs, and they did. … (We) wanted to go back and establish the paint and we were able to do that.”
Bailey Blanchard put the punctuation on the win with a ferocious one-handed dunk in the final minute.
“We knew with all the experience we’ve had at state we’d be able to keep calm, make a big play and stop the run,” said Blanchard, who scored 20 points. “That’s what we did.”
Colfax got a Herculean effort from Scharlau, who seemingly kept the Vikings in the game on his own at times in the second half. He finished with 20 points, 13 coming after halftime.
“Give (Colfax) credit, they didn’t give up. Very well-coached team,” Sargent said. “George Scharlau is one of the best players in the area. … It was a solid performance by both teams. One team had to win, and we’re fortunate we were on that side of it.”
Luke Heidorn kept the Vikings going while they endured their cold start, getting Colfax on the board with its first basket and scoring nine points in the first half. He finished with 13.
The Vikings fell behind 21-8 in the first 12 minutes of the game, and only reached double figures on the scoreboard when Heidorn hit a 3-pointer with 5:46 until half.
“They made their bunnies early and we didn’t,” Maas said. “I think our kids got a little shell-shocked by the big lights, but that’s to be expected.”
But the Vikings slowly kept chipping away at the lead. Down by 15 points soon after halftime, a dunk by Scharlau shot some momentum into Colfax, which scored 17 of the next 25 points.
In the final five minutes of the game, makes started to become hard to come by for the Vikings again – a problem the Warriors did not experience.
Clear Lake will face Osseo-Fairchild for a trip to state on Saturday in a rematch from earlier in the season. The Warriors won that thriller 71-68.
The Vikings finished the season 23-2, tied for the fewest losses in a season in program history. Colfax will graduate five seniors: Scharlau, Heidorn, Ben Thompson, Trevor Rothbauer and Jackson Hellmann.
“You couldn’t ask for five better seniors. I told them they’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, to hold their heads high,” Maas said. “I’m just super proud of our guys.”
Clear Lake 67, Colfax 49
Colfax (23-2): George Scharlau 20, Luke Heidorn 13, Ed Hydukovich 9, Ben Thompson 7.
Clear Lake (22-1): Marshall Cain 17, Bryce Hacker 22, Bailey Blanchard 20, Tyson Blanchard 5, Kincaid Hughes 3.
3-pointers: Colfax 3 (Heidorn, Scharlau, Thompson), Clear Lake 3 (Cain, T. Blanchard, Hughes).
Halftime: Clear Lake 32-22.