Moorhead's upset bid falls short against 6-time Class 4A, Section 8 champion Maple Grove
Maple Grove used a balanced attack to win its sixth straight Class 4A, Section 8 boys basketball title over Moorhead.
MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — Moorhead’s successful playoff run came to an end Friday night in Maple Grove. The Spuds, who opened the season with five straight losses, weren’t expected to still be in the hunt.
They knew what they were up against in perennial power Maple Grove during the Class 4A, Section 8 boys basketball championship, but the underdog Spuds squad wasn't intimidated.
Second-seeded Maple Grove ultimately outlasted No. 5 seed Moorhead 65-56 to earn a spot in the state tournament for the sixth straight year. The Spuds were making their first section final appearance since 2012, and doing so without two of their starters. Due to injury, the Spuds were missing senior Trey Feeney, the team's leading rebounder, and junior point guard Mekhi Alemadi.
“I’m very proud of our guys. Very proud of our group,” Moorhead head coach Matt Ellingson said. “It was a fun season and a special postseason run. Tonight, Maple Grove just made more plays than we did.”
The Crimson had their ticket punched to last year’s state tournament before it was abruptly canceled at the start of the pandemic. Maple Grove head coach Nick Schroeder still remembers having to tell his players — the day after they won the section championship — that their season was over.
“That was tough,” Schroeder said. “So to be able to have it this year is a blessing. Seeing our guys’ face in the locker room at the end of the day today was special.”
Senior guard Brady Walthall posted a game-high 25 points for the Spuds, who finished their season at 10-11. The Crimson’s defense didn’t allow many open looks, but the 6-foot senior Walthall found ways to break through.
“Brady has made a tremendous impact on our team and our program over the last few years,” first-year head coach Ellingson said. “He’s a kid that brings it in big games like this. He’s ready to step up and make big plays. Tonight, he was able to score the ball well for us, and he kept us in there and gave us a fighting chance.”
Maple Grove started the game by scoring the first six points, while Moorhead had trouble in its opening possessions.
Walthall opened the scoring for the Spuds with a jumper. Moorhead would have to play catch-up basketball the remainder of the night.
It was a low-scoring defensive battle in the first half, but Maple Grove leaned on its balanced offensive attack to grab a half-high 10-point lead at 20-10 halfway through the frame. But Moorhead still had plenty of fight.
Belind Alemadi and Walthall put together a 10-3 run to cut the lead to 23-20. Maple Grove finished its first-half scoring with four free throws by sophomores Lincoln Palbicki, the team’s 6-foot-10 big man, and Raoul Vaidya.
Alemadi and Walthall weren't done yet. Walthall scored his fourth driving shot from close to the basket. Alemadi buried a last-second 2-point jumper right at the arc to close Maple Grove’s halftime lead to 27-24.
The Spuds came within two points (30-28) on a Mason Hills bucket, but Maple Grove responded with a furious 9-0 run to grab an 11-point lead at 39-28.
Brady’s twin Blake Walthall came up with a couple big stops to headline a solid defensive game for Moorhead. That seemed to feed the team’s offense, as the Spuds crawled their way back within six (50-44) on a David Lindell 3.
Every time Moorhead scored, Maple Grove answered to restore its lead. But the Spuds weren't ready to back down. Like he had done all game, Brady delivered down the stretch. He drilled a 3-pointer to slash Maple Grove’s lead to just two points (59-57) with two and a half minutes remaining.
"I thought we showed a lot of composure, especially down the stretch," Schroeder said. "Moorhead was trapping and putting a lot of pressure on us. We turned the ball over a little bit more than I wanted to, but for the most part, I thought we had some key momentum swings."
Blake, who had been a defensive bright spot for the Spuds, fouled out with just over three minutes left in the game. Maple Grove took advantage, halting the comeback bid immediately in its tracks. Crimson took away a lot of Moorhead's final possessions by eating up a lot of clock.
Maple Grove senior wings Terence Anthony-Larmouth and Morgan Moore compiled an 8-1 run to set up the game-clinching score. Morgan put an exclamation mark on the title with a two-handed dunk.
Anthony-Larmouth and Moore each scored 14 points in the second half. All but 10 of Maple Grove’s 38 second-half points were from the senior wings. Junior guard Jon Haakenson, who dropped 30 points in the section semifinals, was held to just two Friday.
"Terence and Morgan really stepped up tonight and kind of took over that scoring load when Jon was struggling a little bit," Schroeder said.
Half: Maple Grove 27, Moorhead 24
MG: Moore 21, Anthony-Larmouth 17, Vaidya 13, Palbicki 7, Champion 3, Mogire 2, Haakenson 2.
M: Brady Walthall 25, Alemadi 15, Blake Walthall 7, Lindell 5, Jenkins 2.