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Upsala scoots past Battlers

MINNEAPOLIS – Battle Lake had an uphill challenge in the first round of the Minnesota Class 1A state boys basketball tournament against second-seeded and undefeated Upsala.

The Cardinals had won 30 straight games coming into Thursday’s game at Williams Arena and had an average margin of victory of 27.6 points.

The Battlers gave the Cardinals a scare but faded in the final minutes as Upsala advanced to the state semifinals with a 71-60 victory.

“We didn’t worry about their record when we were playing them,” Battle Lake junior Dan Marso said. “We had confidence we could get it done and beat them, but they’re a really good team, and it’s tough to do.”

Marso led the Battlers (22-6) with 15 points, including 4-for-7 from behind the 3-point line. Tony Ukkelberg scored 10 points despite dealing with foul trouble much of the game.

“He does a lot of good things for us,” Battle Lake head coach Dan Peterka said of Ukkelberg. “He was in foul trouble all night. He sat more tonight than he has all season. Having (him) in there gives us a little more scoring and another good athlete defensively.”

Petric VanErp also scored 10 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists, while Tyler Ukkelberg finished with eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists in the loss.

The Battlers slowed Upsala’s top scorer, Christian Pekarek, in the first half, holding him to eight points on 3 of 10 shooting. But in the final 6 minutes, 3 seconds of the second half, Pekarek poured in 10 points as the Cardinals’ lead extended from 53-51 to 71-60 on the final free throw of the game. Pekarek ended with 25 points and eight rebounds.

“He’s so good that evidentially, he’s going to get something going,” Peterka said. “He took over down the stretch. He’s a nice player. He was able to penetrate our defense and get inside the last five or six minutes and really cause havoc for us. When we did force a tough shot, it created an offensive rebound opportunity for them.”

Upsala grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the win and held a 38-29 rebounding advantage. Avery Smieja had nine points and 12 rebounds for the Cardinals.

Tony Ukkelberg knocked down a pull-up jump shot to start the game and Upsala responded with a 10-0 run to take control. But Battle Lake never went away, and Marso’s long-distance shooting was a big reason. Marso knocked down three 3-pointers in the first half as the Battlers recovered from two double-digit deficits to trail 36-30 at halftime.

Petric VanErp of Battle Lake goes up for a shot against the Upsala defense. Joe Brown/Forum News Service.

“We had to start getting it going both offensively and defensively,” Marso said. “You just have to try to start the tempo a little more and try to slow them down and just don’t want to force anything.”

The Cardinals’ Garrett Wolf led all scorers at halftime with 11 points and finishing with 15.

Battle Lake got off to a great start in the second half and led 41-40 with 13:50 remaining in the game. The Battlers took their largest lead of the night at 45-41 on a layup by VanErp at the 12:06 mark. Smieja tied the game on a free throw with 8:56 remaining. Upsala led the rest of the way.

UPSALA (31-0): E. Frieler 1-4 1-2 4, Pekarek 9-22 5-9 25, Smieja 3-6 3-7 9, Wolf 6-9 3-3 15, Abeler 2-5 0-0 5, Zimmerman 5-5 2-4 13 . Totals 26-53 14-25 71.

BATTLE LAKE (22-6): Marso 5-13 0-0 14, To. Ukkelberg 4-8 2-3 10, P. VanErp 4-11 2-2 10, Ty. Ukkelberg 4-9 0-0 8, Trosdahl 2-4 0-0 4, Beichner 1-2 0-0 3, E. VanErp 4-8 0-0 9, Rogness 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-57 4-5 60.

Halftime: UPSALA 36, BL 30.

3-pointers: UPSALA Frieler, Pekarek 2, Abeler, Zimmerman; BL Marso 4, Beichner, E. VanErp. Total Fouls: UPSALA 10; BL 19. Rebounds: UPSALA 38 (Smieja 12, Pekarek 8, Zimmerman 8); BL 29 (Ty. Ukkelberg 8, P. VanErp 7). Assists: UPSALA 9 (Frieler 3); BL 18 (Ty. Ukkelberg 7, P. VanErp 4, E. VanErp 4). Turnovers: UPSALA 12; BL 12.

Harrell writes for the Red Wing Republican Eagle

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