Gallery: Albert Lea’s season ends at Red Wing

Published 11:06 pm Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cole Keyeski of Albert Lea leaps toward the basket Thursday during the Section 1AAA quarterfinals at Red Wing. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Cole Keyeski of Albert Lea leaps toward the basket Thursday during the Section 1AAA quarterfinals at Red Wing. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

RED WING — The odds were mounted against the Albert Lea boys’ basketball team Thursday in the Section 1AAA quarterfinals.

The Tigers entered the postseason on an eight game skid. They were the No. 7 seed playing on the road after a 100-mile bus ride. No. 2-seed Red Wing beat Albert Lea by 23 points in the season opener on Nov. 26. And, according to Tigers head coach Lucas Kreuscher, his team only played seven of 27 games this year with its full roster.

Red Wing, on the other hand, came into the game having won five of its last six games.

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However, Albert Lea was able to keep Red Wing’s offense off-balance in the first half of the rematch.

“We were switching between a man defense, a 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1,” said Albert Lea’s Tyler Vandenheuvel. “We tried to switch it up so they didn’t see the same look and get on a roll.”

Albert Lea’s Dedoch Chan tied the game early in the second half with a basket in the paint, but Red Wing pulled away late to beat the Tigers 64-54.

Along with causing trouble for Red Wing defensively in the first half, the Tigers were productive on offense.

Vandenheuvel hit all three of his 3-pointers in the first half, and Chan scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the opening period.

“Overall, I think it was the most patient we’ve been offensively in a few weeks,” Kreuscher said. “I thought we moved the ball around well, and we got the ball inside to our big guys. We had some opportunities in there.”

In the second half, the Tigers hit a scoring drought. Red Wing went on a 21-13 run in the final 10 minutes, despite a technical foul by Red Wing’s Ty Buck. As a result, Vandenheuvel hit two of three free throw attempts, but the Wingers kept the momentum.

“That could have been a critical moment, but credit Red Wing,” Kreuscher said. “They played good defense, and they’re very physical.”

Eight Albert Lea seniors stepped on the court for the last time in their high school basketball careers: Cole Keyeski, Goding Wal, Vandenheuvel, Cody Scherff, Tesloch Kuey, Paul Ter, James Hanson and Zach Lind.

“This group expanded over the years and hasn’t played a lot of basketball together,” Kreuscher said. “But the seniors played well tonight, and they can feel good about their last game. It was nice to see them bond together.”

This year was a learning experience for Kuey and Ter and Wal. It was Kuey and Ter’s first season at the varsity level and Wal’s second year.

After losing by a wide margin against Red Wing earlier this season, Keyeski said he was happy the rematch was competitive.

Albert Lea (6-21 overall, 4-14 Big Nine Conference) will return one junior and four sophomores from this year’s roster.

Red Wing advanced to play in the section semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday against No. 3-seed Winona. Winona beat No. 6-seed Stewartville 72-32 Thursday in the quarterfinals to advance.

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: Feb. 27 post.