ROCHESTER, Minn. — The stage was set for an offensive juggernaut.
On one side, there was No. 3 Caledonia High School boys basketball team, which entered Wednesday’s MSHSL Class AA quarterfinal contest averaging 80.1 points per game. On the other side was No. 8 St. Croix Prep, averaging 78 of its own.
The Warriors lived up to their billing and then some. The Lions did not.
In perhaps its finest defensive performance of the season, Caledonia limited St. Croix Prep to its lowest scoring output of the season with a dominant 81-52 victory at Rochester Mayo. The Warriors will take on No. 2 Minneapolis North in the state semifinals at the Target Center on April 7.
They’ll do so on the back of 20 consecutive wins, and 28 straight against Minnesota competition.
“We just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page and stay vocal all game long,” said Caledonia senior Sam Privet, a Northern Michigan commit who poured in 21 points. “We knew that if we didn’t give them many extra possessions, that would really help us a lot. I think we did a good job of that.”
One of four Caledonia scorers in double figures, Privet was a catalyst early, as was junior guard Jackson Koepke. Both combined for 27 of the Warriors’ 40 first-half points, which help sink the Lions to an 11-point deficit at the break.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Warriors (22-1) led No. 4 Stewartville by the same halftime margin during last week’s Section 1AA title game. Caledonia, of course, went on to beat the Tigers by 17 after leading by as many as 26.
The Warriors outdid themselves against St. Croix Prep.
After enduring 18 minutes of relentless, physical defense, the Lions (20-2) simply ran out of gas down the stretch, and the scoreboard reflected as much.
“I think anybody that shoots the basketball knows it’s a lot harder when your legs are tired,” Caledonia coach Brad King said. “Our guys, again, did a good job making them move the ball around, make a lot of cuts and stuff. And when that happens, you hope then that they’re a little more tired in the second half than we are. I think that worked for us tonight.”
Just like they did against Stewartville, the Warriors came out firing in the second half at their opponent’s expense.
Senior guard Addison Metcalf, who led St. Croix Prep with 20 points, hit the first bucket of the final period to make it a nine-point game. That was the last time the Lions trailed by single digits.
The Warriors proceeded to rip off a whopping 28-7 run over the next 10 minutes — including an 18-2 stretch that put them up by 30 — to put the game to bed. They did what they do best: wear teams down.
St. Croix Prep coach Kevin Seim said Caledonia is the best team that his group has faced all year.
“I’d probably give the nod to Caledonia there, just from a physicality and a size standpoint,” he said. “We haven’t played a team that physical and that long all season, so trying to match up and having to make that adjustment, it’s a pretty big learning curve.”
Koepke finished with a game-high 22 points, while senior guard Austin Klug — who had to wait 27 minutes before canning his one and only 3-pointer — ground his way to 17 points of his own. Senior post Casey Schultz added 11 for the Warriors.
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