Tigers advance to the Section 1AAA championship
Published 9:06 pm Monday, March 9, 2020
The Albert Lea boys’ basketball team continued its Section 1AAA run Saturday night, hosting Simley in the section semifinals.
The Tigers used a stifling defensive performance in the second half to beat the Spartans 55-32 and advance to their first section title game since the 2005-06 season.
It was a fairly even game through most of the first half with neither team able to pull away from the other. The momentum-gaining play for the Tigers came with 1:15 left in the first period. The Spartans hit a three-point shot to cut the Tigers lead to just two. However, that basket marked the final score the Spartans had until the 10:45 mark in the second half.
Albert Lea went into the locker rooms with a 24-18 halftime lead and came out and extended its lead by going on a 12-0 run to start the second half. The Spartans went scoreless for eight and a half minutes of play, allowing the Tigers to get out to a 36-08 lead.
Albert Lea cruised to an easy victory through the rest of the game.
Another big advantage for the Tigers came in the rebounding category in which the Tigers pulled down 40 boards compared to the Spartans 20.
Leading the Tigers in points, steals and blocks was senior Chay Guen with 22 points, three steals and four blocks. Guen also pulled in six rebounds and totaled two assists. Senior Koby Hendrickson led in rebounds with eight and assists with five, while also recording one point and two steals. Senior Connor Veldman also had eight rebounds, while also totaling 10 points, two assists and two steals.
Other contributors for the Tigers were senior JJ Mucha-Owens with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists; senior Andrew Willner with six points, three assists and two steals; and junior Bhan Kuey with six points and five rebounds.
Albert Lea advances to the Section 1AAA championship game, where it will meet Big Nine Conference rival Austin on Friday night. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Friday at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
The Tigers and Packers have met twice already this season, with each team coming away with victories. The road team came away with a one-point win in each contest. The Tigers won a 72-71 game Jan. 21 and the Packers won a 41-40 game Feb. 28.