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East Ridge sophomore Seth Green slams one home in the Raptors' 54-53 win over No. 5-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge High School Tuesday in Woodbury. The win secured the first Suburban East Conference championship in school history for the East Ridge boys’ basketball program. (Bulletin photo by Nick Gerhardt)

East Ridge boys basketball: Raptors win conference championship with win over Cretin-Derham Hall

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It goes without saying that East Ridge is a lot better off with senior point guard Jake Knupp on the court than on the bench.

Knupp spent nearly six minutes on the bench in the second half with four fouls, but once he returned what a difference he made in a thrilling 54-53 come-from-behind victory over No. 5-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall at East Ridge High School Tuesday in Woodbury.

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Knupp led East Ridge with 15 points to help secure the first Suburban East Conference championship in school history for the boys’ basketball program.

The Raptors (21-4, 15-2 SEC) cut down one of the nets after the win to commemorate the historic moment.

Knupp scored eight points in the final 4 minutes, 1 second of the game, including consecutive 3-pointers to give East Ridge a 52-51 lead with 1:57 left to play. The 3-pointer gave the Raptors their first lead of the game after a dreadful first-half performance.

“That’s our senior leader right there,” said junior guard Sid Tomes, who finished with 14 points. “That’s what he does. He comes up big when it matters.”

Knupp also had five rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

East Ridge erased a 15-point deficit in the second half by getting back to solid defense and rebounding. The Raptors trailed 34-21 at halftime after the Raiders (19-6, 14-3 SEC) hit a shot at the buzzer to end the first half.

“We just talked about No. 1 we couldn’t shoot any worse than we did in the first half,” East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin said. “Then we went back and focused on what we needed to do, which was play defense our way, rebound and share the ball. You can see in the second half we only gave them 19 points. We really played defense well. Our rebounding stepped up and of course we hit a few shots at the end.”

The Raptors got back into the game with a 13-0 run that started 3 minutes into the second half. East Ridge senior Parker Moquist and Tomes each hit 3-pointers during the run and Knupp converted a 3-point play to cap the run and make it a 41-39 Cretin-Derham Hall lead.

Knupp picked up his fourth foul with the Raptors trailing 43-39. That deficit swelled to seven with 5:04 left before Knupp got back on the floor.

“We were just cold and I don’t think we were as aggressive as we needed to be on offense,” Knupp said. “In the second half we got it going.”

East Ridge sophomore Seth Green provided some energy early in the second half with his play on defense. After a poor rebounding performance in the first half, the Raptors started limiting offensive rebounds for the Raiders. Green finished with nine points and Freddie Gillespie scored seven points while also helping clean up the glass as Green finished with five rebounds and Gillespie had seven.

The Raptors shot 34 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range.

Michael Hannon led Cretin-Derham Hall with 16 points, all of which came in the first half. Donnell Gresham and Joe Rosga each finished with 10 points.

East Ridge moved up the Class AAAA rankings to fifth with the win, while Cretin-Derham Hall fell out of the top 10.

The victory made up for a 67-59 loss to the Raiders Jan. 14 in St. Paul. It also marked the second consecutive loss for Cretin-Derham Hall after a Feb. 14 83-82 loss to Woodbury.

East Ridge closes out the regular season Friday against Stillwater in Stillwater. A win over the Ponies (12-13; 8-9 SEC) would give the Raptors sole possession of the SEC. A loss coupled with a win by Cretin-Derham Hall at Roseville (13-12; 10-7 SEC) would mean East Ridge would share the conference crown with Cretin-Derham Hall.

-Nick Gerhardt

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