WAHPETON, N.D.-The game was in doubt until the final minute, but Wyndmere-Lidgerwood made the crucial plays to take a 54-49 win over Maple Valley Thursday night in the North Dakota Class B Region 1 boys basketball semifinals.
Time to celebrate? Not really. The Warbirds emerged from their locker room afterward like they just got done with a tough practice.
"Game faces are still on," said head coach Todd Hosford.
That's because the Warbirds will play region kingpin Fargo Oak Grove Friday night for the right to go to the North Dakota Class B state tournament. The tipoff at Ed Werre Arena is 7:30 p.m.
"We know they're going to bring it," said Wyndmere-Lidgerwood guard Luke Foertsch. "A lot of people are probably counting us out, but we're going to come to play. It's do or die."
Foertsch's two free throws with 17 seconds left, with his team leading 52-49, prevented Maple Valley from a chance to tie. It also continued a run of success that started last fall with a football championship.
The Warbirds, 20-2 in basketball, are 32-2 combined in both sports. It will be their first appearance in the region championship game since starting the co-op in the 2009-10 season.
"We know what it's like to grind it out," Foertsch said. "You can't flinch."
Like Oak Grove did earlier in the night, the Warbirds were particularly effective in the early stages of the third quarter.
They led 28-24 at halftime, but quickly put some distance between them and Maple Valley behind 3-point field goals from Ismael Vasquez and Wyatt Harles. They were part of a 12-4 surge that made it 40-28.
The Raiders didn't fold, however. Jacob Johnson and Hunter Smith combined for 10 points and they pulled to within 42-38 heading into the fourth quarter. For a team that was 17-4 coming in, there was plenty of time to take a lead it hadn't seen since early in the first quarter.
It didn't take long. Dustin Kasowski's inside bucket gave Maple Valley a 44-42 lead with just under six minutes remaining.
"We got a little slow-footed," Hosford said.
The Raiders, however, picked the wrong time for a drought. Foertsch's three-point play with 2:41 left capped seven straight and the Warbirds led 52-46. Maple Valley would not score again until Arthur Punton's hoop with 1:25 left.
Still, the Raiders were within 52-48 in the final minute.
Punton made 1 of 2 free throws with 47 seconds left. On the other end, after waiting for the shot clock to wind down, Foertsch was fouled driving to the basket and his two free throws made it a five-point game.
Now comes Oak Grove.
"We know it's a big task at hand," Hosford said.
Maple Valley 10 24 38 49
W-L 11 28 42 54
MV: Punton 3 1-2 7, Johnson 2 3-4 8, Smith 7 1-2 19, Kasowski 2 4-4 8, Killoran 3 1-1 7. Totals: 17-40 10-13.
W-L: Foertsch 4 5-8 13, Jelinek 3 3-3 9, Harles 5 0-1 13, Bohnenstingl 3 0-0 6, Vasquez 4 3-5 13. Totals: 19-37 11-17.
3-point goals: Johnson, Smith 4, Harles 3, Vasquez 2. Total fouls: MV 15, W-L 13. Rebounds: MV 25 (Johnson 5); W-L 21 (Four with 3). Assists: MV 7 (Pierce 3); W-L 10 (Foertsch 4). Turnovers: MV 12, W-L 8.