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Boys' Basketball: East Ridge falls in overtime battle

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East Ridge senior Marcus Haskins drives to the basket. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)2 / 4
Nick Christenson tries to get around a Cretin-Derham Hall defender during the Class 4A, Section 4 playoffs. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)3 / 4
Courtney Brown Jr. throws down a dunk during the first half of Saturday’s section playoff game. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)4 / 4

It seemed like the East Ridge boys' basketball team had an answer for each bit of adversity it faced this season.

But on Saturday, the Raptors could not overcome a Cretin-Derham Hall team that many felt has the most talent in the loaded Class 4A, Section 4 field. The 80-79 overtime loss at Hastings High School ended the Raptors' season in the section semifinals.

East Ridge had to overcome injuries and illnesses on its way to a share of the Suburban East Conference championship this season. Senior Michael Virgin and freshman scorer Ben Carlson were still out of the lineup during Saturday's playoff game.

After the loss, head coach Paul Virgin told his players he was happy with the way they responded by coming back from an eight-point deficit late in the second half to force overtime.

"I couldn't have been more proud of the way we played all year," Virgin said. "I couldn't have been more proud of the way they played tonight. It's the way these kids played all year. They are a team, and they gave it their all."

After being tied 39-39 at halftime, East Ridge fell behind 65-57 with just three minutes, 50 seconds left to play. But they were able to make a comeback with baskets from many of their senior players. Zach Bennett knocked down a three-pointer plus a free throw to give East Ridge a 72-70 lead with 30 seconds left in regulation. But Cretin-Derham Hall's Ryan Larson responded a layup with 15 seconds left to tie the game at 72-72 heading into overtime.

Sy Chatman scored the game-winning jump shot that put Cretin-Derham Hall ahead 80-79 with about 20 seconds remaining on the clock. East Ridge had two free throw opportunities to tie the game in the closing seconds, but neither fell as the Raiders advanced to play Tartan in the section finals.

East Ridge was no stranger this season to close games that have come down to the final minutes. Both matchups against Woodbury were decided by six points or less, with the Raptors going 1-1 in those games. They also won one-point games against Lakeville South and Roseville.

"We've had about two or three of those this year, but it was just a different outcome this time," senior Nick Christenson said.

The University of Minnesota commit Daniel Oturu scored 25 points to lead the Cretin-Derham Hall offense, followed by Larson with 22 points and Chatman with 20. Four Raptors scored at least 10 points in the game, with Bennett leading the way with 21 points. Courtney Brown Jr. finished with 19 points and Christenson had 17.

The Raptors are graduating seven seniors on the roster who helped them finish with a record of 22-6 this season, including 14-2 against SEC teams. That was an improvement from a 14-11 record in 2015-16.

A few young, skilled players will also be back to help the roster next season.

"We have a good group of young kids," Brown said. "We've got Ben Carlson coming back. He's a freshman. My brother's coming up (Kendall Brown)."

Cretin-Derham Hall advanced to the section finals to play Tartan Thursday at Hastings High School. The Titans defeated Woodbury 87-54 in the other section semifinals game on Saturday.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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