Tartan heads to state tournament
In the Section 4 AAAA boys basketball finals March 5, the No.1-seeded Woodbury Royals met No. 3-seeded Tartan Titans played a torrid, hotly-contested game at East Ridge High School. The Tartan five jumped to an early lead and, despite stiff opposition, never relinquished it.
The Titans' stifling defense shut off an almost equally stubborn Woodbury offense to secure a hard-fought 90-78 triumph.
The victory over the Royals won the Titans a trip to the Class AAAA boys State Tournament, which begins March 12 at the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
Renewing a tradition?
This will be Tartan's 10th appearance in the annual March classic. The last time the Titans appeared was in 2005.
Nine years ago, the seniors on this year's squad would have been third-graders admiring the likes of then-Titan all-state forward Urule Igbavboa in his unusual "00" jersey, Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Jay Thomas, Matt Haas, Abe Kpaka and Lamont Mack.
Veteran coach Mark Klingsporn, who coached the 2005 squad and many other successful cagers, says 2014's team has the skills and, best of all, the right attitude.
"This group of kids came together and really began to fit into their goals," Klingsporn says. "They began to play for one another and collectively they work well as a team. I'm so proud of them and how they have melded into a unit that has a single goal when the ball is tipped."
Long-time assistant coach Bill Fetsch echoed Klingsporn's remarks. "I'm so proud of the effort these kids put in. Not only tonight, but throughout the season. It has been a game by game progression. They have shown resolve and their attitude has been tops all season long.
They have worked so hard and now they have achieved a season-long goal."
Piling up points
For the record, the Titans had a great run from outside the perimeter. Woodbury hit on six of their outside shots; Tartan shot often and sunk a total of 12 three-pointers for a 36-18 difference.
However, both teams were successful from the free-throw line. Woodbury sunk 22-of-25 (88 percent) while the Titans went 20-of-26 (77 percent).
The Tartan defense made the difference in slowing down the frustrated Royals, at one point in the first half widening the Titans' point margin to a 13-point 31-18 lead.
The score at the halfway point in the game was closer, though, with Tartan up by 10 at 45-35.
Undeterred, the Royals returned after the half to fight. After establishing another 13-point lead, 73-60, the Titans seemed to go into a semi-stall and the encouraged Royals began chipping away at the lead.
They moved the score to within five at 71-76 with 2:32 remaining to be played. But a bucket by the Titans and a fifth foul on Matt Ambriz -- he left the floor with 22 points under his belt -- took the wind out of Woodbury's sails.
Woodbury Royals coach Scott Swansson was left to reflect on the end of his team's 20-9 season. "They (Tartan) are a good team who run well. They hit too many threes. They really hurt us from the outside... They didn't miss too many.
"But we've had a good run and I'm proud of our kids and how well they have played all season."
The Royals had five players score points and four of them were in double figures. Ambriz led with 22. He was followed by Nick Yan 20, Isaiah Coddon 20, Ben Rizzardi 12 and Charlie Olson 4.
Leading the Titans with a game-high 28 points was (6-0 ninth grade guard) Jordan Horn. Also in double figures were Keenen Bellaphant 12, Tommy Hanson 11 and Brody Jackson 10. Also contributing to the winning effort were Emanuel Humphrey 9, Jacob Lyle 8, Eric Winter 8 and John Jenkins 4.
Tartan will now await the seedings in Class AAAA before they know who they will go up against in first-round action March 12 at the Target Center.
-- Wally Wakefield can be reached at email@example.com .