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Basketball: Osakis moves on to 6AA semifinals after withstanding furious rally from Sauk Centre

Sauk Centre sophomore guard Jay Neubert had a game-high 27 points, but Osakis forced him into a tough shot on the final possession to hold on for the 59-56 win.

Carter Watnaas
Osakis senior Carter Watnaas puts up a shot over the defense of Sauk Centre's Jay Neubert on March 12, 2022 during the Section 6AA quarterfinals.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Osakis boys basketball team will get a shot at the No. 1 seed in Section 6AA as the playoff field was dwindled to four on Saturday.

The fourth-seeded Silverstreaks had a hard time shaking fifth-seeded Sauk Centre (20-8) in their quarterfinals game, but Osakis held off a furious rally in the final two minutes to win 59-56 in front of a packed crowd at St. John’s University.

“It was a great atmosphere, but I hate that I’m sweating as much as I am,” Osakis head coach Matt Hoelscher said with a smile.

The Silverstreaks had stretched their lead to 10 with 2:55 left, but back-to-back steals that led to layups for Sauk Centre gave the Mainstreeters life in a six-point game.

Brady Mages
Osakis senior center Brady Mages gets fouled on his way to the basket against Sauk Centre in the Section 6AA quarterfinals on March 12, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Osakis lead was down to just two at 58-56 after Sauk Centre star guard Jay Neubert drained a three from the left wing with 13 seconds left. Osakis senior guard Bauer Klimek followed by making one of two free throws.

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Sauk Centre had one last chance to tie it. Neubert was brilliant all afternoon with a game-high 27 points, but the Silverstreaks defended him well on the final possession as Neubert’s three came up well short at the buzzer.

“Jay Neubert is a beast,” Hoelscher said. “He’s tough to stop. He can shoot from three, and you have to guard him all over the place. Then when their other guys start making shots, that makes him that much better. (Macoy) Thiesen can get to the rim and hit shots. (Corey McCoy), our game plan was to make him make shots, and credit to him, he buried two of them. We found a way to weather the storm, but those turnovers back-to-back, sometimes we panicked.”

Carter Watnaas
Osakis senior Carter Watnaas puts up a shot over the defense of Sauk Centre's Jay Neubert on March 12, 2022 during the Section 6AA quarterfinals. Neubert, a sophomore guard who set the Mainstreeters' single-season scoring record this season, had a game-high 27 points on Saturday, but Osakis held on for the 59-56 win.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Turnovers and a couple of situations where Osakis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line aided Sauk Centre’s efforts in getting back in the game.

Klimkek had a team-high 16 points that included three first-half triples. His made free throw with 12 seconds left was perhaps his biggest shot as it set up Osakis’ defense on Sauk Centre’s final possession knowing the Mainstreeters needed a three.

“I would have loved to have been up four, but being up three we know that we would switch all the ball-screen action so we could have a shot contest,” Hoelscher said. “They run good action off their stuff. The thought process was, the worst-case scenario is we go to overtime.”

Osakis led throughout, but the game almost always hung within two or three possessions.

The Mainstreeters got it down to a one-possession game early in the second half after trailing 34-25 at the break. Osakis responded with a big three from sophomore guard Mekai Hoelscher a couple of possessions later to help push the lead back to 43-35 with 10:49 left.

Bauer Klimek
Osakis senior guard Bauer Klimek wins a race to a loose ball against Sauk Centre's Andrew Drevlow on March 12, 2022 during the Section 6AA quarterfinals. Klimek had a team-high 16 points for the Silverstreaks in the win.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Silverstreaks did a good job of answering Sauk Centre rallies all night.

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“We found a way where if they were in their 1-3-1 or man, we had a play for everything,” coach Hoelscher said. “When they went man, we were able to get high-low with Brady Mages one-on-one in the post. When they went zone, we had two shooters in at the same time — Bauer and Kai. Put them in the corners, and it’s tough to defend when you have Brady in the high post and the defense sucking in. Kai’s shot was big.”

Brady Mages finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds. Stewart Jones added 13 points and 4 assists, and Grant Mages grabbed a team-high 8 rebounds to go with his 4 points off the bench.

“Some execution stuff we have to get better at, but overall I’m proud of the guys,” Hoelscher said. “We missed some stuff around the rim, but Mekai hit two big threes, Stewart hit a big three and was cutting, Carter Watnaas, we found him on a cut. Guys did what they needed to do.” 

Osakis will be back at St. John’s on March 15 for the semifinals at 6 p.m. The Silverstreaks will face No. 1-seeded Annandale after the Cardinals beat eighth-seeded Milaca 61-49 on Saturday.

It will be a matchup of two teams that have been rolling of late.

Annandale is 26-2 and has not lost since Dec. 16 at Albany. Osakis improved to 25-3 and has won nine straight since a loss at Browerville on Feb. 8.

Annandale is ranked as the fourth best Class AA team in the state through the QRF on Minnesota-scores.net. The Cardinals average just over 66 points per game and allow just 45.7 behind a well-rounded lineup.

Tuesday's game will be a rematch of last year's second-round playoff game between Osakis and Annandale that Annandale won 67-63.

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“They’re really big. They have three bigs that they play, and their guards are quick,” Hoelscher said of the Cardinals. “They run a lot of high-low action, they offensive rebound really well, and then they can stroke it from three. For us, we have two bigs that we like. Carter and Brady matched up well against them last year. I feel confident with that. We just have to find a way to stop their guards and find a way to score on offense against all their size.

OSAKIS    34 25 - 59

SAUK CENTRE     25 31 - 56

OSAKIS - Stewart Jones - 13 points, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 4 rebounds, 2 steals; Bauer Klimek - 16 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 3 steals; Mekai Hoelscher - 6 points, 2 steals; Carter Watnaas - 3 points, 2 assists, 1 block, 5 rebounds; Brady Mages - 15 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals; Drew Imdieke - 2 points, 1 assist, 1 steal; Grant Mages - 4 points, 1 assist, 8 rebounds, 1 steal

SAUK CENTRE SCORING - Jay Neubert - 27; Andrew Drevlow - 3; Matthew Warring - 3; Macoy Thiesen - 17; Corey McCoy - 6

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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