MINNEAPOLIS — Mason Miller made his presence felt in a big way during the Minnesota Class 1A boys basketball quarterfinals at Williams Arena. The 6-foot-8 Ada-Borup forward finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds, helping the Cougars to a 49-39 victory over Cromwell-Wright on Thursday.
"They are a great team. They are here for a reason and so we are," Miller said. "They came out shooting the lights out and shot them out the whole game. I think our defense really showed tonight. We didn’t start out very well offensively. Our defense led to our offense, and you could see when we got hot on defense, we got hot on offense and it’s so much fun."
Miller took the game over inside for the Cougars when they found themselves down 31-25 after a 10-3 Cardinal run in the second half. Miller scored nine straight points, giving the Cougars the 34-31 lead.
Cromwell-Wright answered back with a 3-pointer from Jaden Gronner, but it was all Ada-Borup after that. The Cougars went on a 24-8 run to end the game.
Miller said it was the defense and he was quick to credit his teammates for their efforts in shutting down a Cromwell-Wright team, which was averaging 65.5 points per game.
"Cromwell is such a great offensive team," Miller said. "I thought we did a good job of locking up a good team. I can’t just say I’m a good defensive player because that’s not how a team works. Everyone on the floor is a good defensive player at any given moment. Maybe I was doing a little extra that led to other guys looking better on defense and myself looking better on defense. It’s so much fun being on such a great team."
Ada-Borup head coach Trevor Stewart said Miller is a very talented kid, who does a lot of things on both ends of the floor. Miller had four blocks as well as clogging the lane, forcing Cromwell to stay on the outside.
"He works hard, he is a super kid and a great student," Stewart said. "We really like having him."
Cromwell-Wright started the first half on fire, building up a 9-2 lead, but the Cougars rallied back by going inside to Miller. Miller, along with Preston Gwin, finished it double-digits scoring. Gwin added 14 points. He was strong from the free-throw line, sinking all six of his attempts.
Neither team could gain separation throughout the first half, but No. 2 seed Ada-Borup maintained the lead after a free throw and a late bucket by Jared Brainard at 22-21.
Cromwell-Wright continued its strong start to each half with a 10-3 run to open the second half. Stewart said his team wore down Cromwell-Wright and tuned in defensively after the quick starts.
"We did the job the way we were supposed to do. I thought we were pretty good and they made some shots. Basketball is a shot-making game," Stewart said. "I thought defensively we tuned it up and getting Miller the ball. At the start of the first half and the start of the second half, he didn’t have a lot of touches and, once he started, everything started to go that way."
Brainard finished with nine points and four assists, helping Ada-Borup advance. Gronner and Cameron Cahoon finished with 10 points each for the Cardinals in the loss. Cromwell-Wright dropped to 25-4 overall with the loss.
Ada-Borup improved to 29-1 on the season and will play in the state semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday at Target Center.
Halftime: Ada-Borup 22, Cromwell-Wright 21
C-W: Marcus Pocernich 8, Micah Pocernich 9, Jaden Gronner 10, Cameron Cahoon 10, Gage Jones 2.
A-B: Colby Stevenson 1, Jared Brainard 9, Preston Gwin 14, Mason Miller 19, Verdis Barber 6.