Baker scores 40, top 2,000 for his career
There was a lot of orange in the crowd at Concordia University in St. Paul Friday afternoon.
It didn’t faze the NRHEG Panthers. Especially Oakley Baker.
Baker scored 40 points and surpassed the 2,000-point barrier for his career as the Panthers outlasted Lake City 77-66 for the Class AA boys’ basketball state consolation championship.
Baker, who had seven three-pointers and was 13-for-13 from the free-throw line, did not miss a free throw in three state tournament games.
Tyler Raimann also reached double figures with 15 points, as did Benji Lundberg with 11. Brady Agrimson scored six, Jason Jongbloedt three, Chad Agrimson two. Sam Prigge also started but did not score. Jack Schultz played but did not score.
The game belonged to the Panthers most of the day as they took a 17-10 lead behind three baskets by Raimann, two Baker threes and five points by Lundberg.
Before you knew it, it was 21-11 Panthers and Lake City called its first time out in a span of less than two minutes.
A Raimann dunk culminated a 10-1 for the Panthers, making it 27-12 with 5:39 left in the first half.
NRHEG led 39-26 at halftime.
The second half was closer, but the Panthers continued to play tough defense on the Tigers, who relied on the three-point basket much of the season. Most of the time the Panthers were dogging the shooter, and Lake City attempted too many long shots.
A 14-7 run —highlighted by two Baker threes — made it 53-36 Panthers about midway through the second half.
The New Richland fans could sense the title as NRHEG went up 59-44 with about eight minutes left, but the Tigers refused to fold. They just fouled the wrong guy too many times.
Baker, Jongbloedt and Chad Agrimson — but especially Baker — hit key free throws down the stretch, and the seniors exchanged hugs on the court, as did Raimann and coach Pat Churchill.
The Panthers, unseeded at state, finished 30-3 overall, falling in overtime to No. 2 seed St. Cloud Cathedral in the quarterfinals before winning the consolation title. Lake City, also unseeded, finished 24-8.
While it was the Panthers’ first trip to state, Lake City has a deep history there dating back to the days of Randy Breuer, who led the team to state titles and went on to play for the Minnesota Gophers and Milwaukee Bucks; the Tigers were last at state in 1990, when they finished first.
The NRHEG girls’ basketball team accomplished the same feat as the NRHEG boys on the same court a week earlier, winning the state Class AA consolation title after falling to No. 1 seed and eventual state champion Roseau in the opening round.