Even after elbow injury, Christensen vaults Breckenridge into section finals
MOORHEAD—Breckenridge's 6-foot-8 junior Noah Christensen came down hard going up for a pass with 10 minutes, 26 seconds to go in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 semifinal matchup against Hawley on Monday. He could barely lift his right arm, grasping his right elbow.
He wouldn't tell Breckenridge coach Arly Ohm what hurt, only he wasn't coming out when Ohm yanked him. He came back 33 seconds later with a wrap on his right arm, a wrap he would throw to the sideline after missing a free throw in the final minutes of Breckenridge's 64-60 win.
"He's done this for us for two years now," Ohm said. "We ride the thoroughbred. He's a great player and there's a lot of colleges that want him. Now you know why they want him."
With college coaches in the stands at Moorhead High School, Christensen wasn't thinking about his future when he demanded to check back in or when he winced in pain, essentially playing the final 10 minutes left-handed.
"I wasn't coming out," Christensen said. "My team needed me."
Breckenridge was up 61-60 with 33.4 seconds remaining when freshmen Cooper Yaggie, who had attempted four free throws all season, split two free throws to push the Breckenridge lead to 62-60. Hawley's Carter Justesen shot a 3-pointer from the corner, but it rimmed out and Christensen was there to grab his 15th rebound with 12.7 seconds left.
Christensen split two free throws for his 36th point of the night. Hawley had one more chance, down three with 7.5 seconds remaining, but Breckenridge's Hunter Feigum stole the inbound pass and split two free throws to seal it.
"I think we showed grit and toughness and that's why we won the ballgame," Ohm said. "I compliment Hawley to the fullest. (Hawley coach Nathan) Stoa had them ready to go. I thought it was just a classic battle. Anybody else that was here, this is march madness."
Breckenridge had an 11-8 lead in the opening minutes before Hawley caught fire. The Nuggets went on a 20-0 run behind two 3-pointers from Jayden Carlisle and nine points from Justesen, who sank two 3-pointers during the run and capped it with a 3-point play.
Breckenridge, which beat Hawley by 45 points in its latest meeting Jan. 23, answered with a 14-4 run to close the half. Eight points during the run came from Christensen, who finished with 14 points in the first half for the Cowboys.
Breckenridge kept the momentum going after the halftime break, opening the second half with an 19-7 run behind two 3-pointers from Derek Dahlgren and six points from Christensen. Christensen went up for a pass, but a Hawley defender was behind him to take the charge and Christensen came down hard on his right elbow.
The game was tied at 46-46 when he checked back in. He scored 14 of the remaining 18 points for the Cowboys (24-5). He grabbed six rebounds and had a block after the injury as well.
"He's a hell of a player," Stoa sad. "He's going to play at the next level and I'll be really happy when he does move on to the next level because I'll sleep more."
Breckenridge will defend its section crown in a rematch of last season's section championship against Perham at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Concordia's Memorial Auditorium.
"There's going to be a full house I have a feeling at Concordia on Thursday night," Ohm said. "May the best team win."
Halftime: H 32, B 25
B: Pedersen 6, Christensen 36, Dahlgren 10, Feigum 8, McGough 1, Johnson 2, Yaggie 1.
H: Lawson 13, Carlisle 13, Libak 4, Loegering 11, Glad 6, Justesen 11, Thompson 2.