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6A BBB: Nickel's worth of advice pays dividends for Park Christian

Moorhead Park Christian’s Hunter Nickel connects for a basket against Fergus Falls Hillcrest during the Minnesota Class 1A, Section 6 North sub-section boys basketball championship Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD – Hunter Nickel used his dad as motivation Tuesday night at Memorial Auditorium.

The Moorhead Park Christian senior scored 25 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked seven shots. That monster effort sparked the Falcons to a 47-39 victory against Fergus Falls Hillcrest in the Minnesota Class 1A, Section 6 boys basketball semifinals.

Nickel’s dad, Shane, couldn’t attend the section semifinals because he was on the East Coast on a business trip.

“He said, ‘Win it, so I can see your last game.’ So that is what my mindset was,” said the 6-foot-5 Nickel, who scored 13 points in the second half.

Park Christian (21-9) earned the North Sub-section championship to advance to the section finals for the first time since 2007. The Falcons have never made the state tournament.

“This is huge for us,” Nickel said. “We may not go to state, but we are going to do everything we can to get there.”

Park Christian plays Battle Lake (27-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Auditorium for the section championship. The Battlers are the only remaining unbeaten boys team in Minnesota.

“I told them celebrate tonight, and tomorrow we come back to work,” Park Christian head coach Erv Inniger said.

Nickel scored 13 consecutive Park Christian points during one stretch in the second half. He was the only Falcons player to score from the field in the game’s final 14 minutes.

Nickel’s short jumper gave the Falcons a 39-37 lead with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining. Those were his final points and gave Park Christian the lead for good.

“He is just a dominant player right now,” Inniger said of Nickel.

The Falcons’ final eight points came at the foul line. Sophomore guard Zach Kvalvog was 6 of 6 from the line in the final two minutes. Senior guard Matt Moberg also made 2 of 2 free throws with 1:09 remaining. Park Christian scored the game’s final six points.

“Those are the difference-makers in a ballgame,” Inniger said of those late free throws.

Park Christian held the Comets to their second-lowest point total this season. Hillcrest earned a 73-62 home victory against the Falcons during the regular season.

“We weren’t aggressive enough I think on the offensive end,” Hillcrest head coach Gregg Preston said.

Senior guard Daniel Nersten paced the Comets with 16 points, scoring 12 of them in the first half. Inniger thought containing Nersten, especially after halftime, was critical to his team’s defensive effort. Nersten was the only Hillcrest player to reach double figures in scoring.

“The key element is to not to let Nersten have that ball, because he is such a great ballplayer,” Inniger said.

Hillcrest was attempting to make its first section championship game since 2010.

“We’re just grateful for the season we had,” Preston said. “The guys worked hard and worked together, great kids. All of that translates into a night like tonight being very disappointing.”

PARK CHRISTIAN (21-9): M. Moberg 1 2-4 4, Kvalvog 1 6-6 9, Olsgaard 1 0-0 3, Hannestad 2 0-0 6, Nickel 10 5-6 25, Daugherty 0 0-0 0, N. Moberg 0 0-0 0, Schwandt 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 13-16 47.

HILLCREST (18-9): Malmstrom 0 0-0 0, Tungseth 2 0-1 5, Nersten 6 3-5 16, Isaac 4 0-0 9, E. Newman 2 3-4 7, Christenson 0 0-1 0, K. Newman 1 0-0 2, R. Undseth 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 6-11 39.

Half: PC 23, FFH 19. 3-point goals: Kvalvog, Olsgaard, Hannestad 2, Tungseth, Nersten, Isaac. Total fouls: PC 14, FFH 14. Rebounds: PC 26 (Nickel 8), FFH 31 (Nersten 7). Turnovers: PC 12, FFH 9.6

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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