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John's Journal: 102 Years Later, Border West Makes Basketball History

Buccaneers Fall To Cherry In Class 1A State Quarterfinals

Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2023 - 4:32 PM


Williams Arena.




Cherry junior Isaac Asuma.

After the boys basketball team from Border West qualified for this week’s Class 1A state tournament by winning the Section 6 title, no effort was made to celebrate with any players who were part of the last team from their communities to play at state.

Border West is a cooperative team that draws students from three schools near the South Dakota border: Wheaton, Herman-Norcross and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley. The only appearances at state for any of those schools was Wheaton in 1919, 1920 and 1921.

So, no, it’s a little tough to contact athletes from 102 years ago.

The Border West Buccaneers have had an outstanding season. They came to state with a 26-2 record and 23-game winning streak, which ended in a 68-55 loss to Cherry in the 1A quarterfinals Wednesday at Williams Arena. Several other sports have had teams playing as Wheaton/Herman-Norcross, and boys basketball became a three-school coop this season when Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley joined in.

In wrestling, the three schools have been in a coop for years, qualifying for the state team tournament in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Last fall, Wheaton/Herman-Norcross advanced to the Nine-Man football state semifinals before suffering their first loss of the season to eventual state champion Mountain Iron-Buhl.

“We had a really nice season last year and we were hoping to continue with that this year, and then we had the coop and we knew we got some extra guys,” said Border West basketball coach Jordon Roos. “So we had high expectations, but we had never seen a team (get to state) from our areas. Give these guys a lot of credit, they came into the season with high expectations and they really lived up to them because it doesn't always happen that way.”

Border West “went through the wringer” to get to state, Roos said.

“Our section is really tough and we played some really good teams. Henning was a state champion (in 2019), B-B-E (Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa) took second last year, KMS (Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg) is a great team.”

The Buccaneers beat those teams and Brandon-Evansville in the section tournament. Prior to Wednesday, they had not lost since back-to-back defeats against Sauk Centre and Perham in late December.

They appeared to be in a good position for most of the game against Cherry, the Iron Range school that is at state for the second year in a row. Cherry junior Isaac Asuma, who has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Minnesota, was in foul trouble for much of Wednesday’s game.

Isaac went to the bench with six points and three fouls with 7:40 left in the first half. Clapping along while the Cherry fans chanted “defense!,” he remained on the bench for the remainder of the first half as Gophers head coach Ben Johnson and assistants Dave Thorson, Jason Kemp and Marcus Jenkins watched from courtside seats. Cherry led 34-28 at halftime.

With 12:26 left in the second half Asuma drew his fourth foul and returned to the bench with nine points, six rebounds and five assists as Cherry led 43-39. He returned with 5:10 left and assisted on a three-pointer by Carson Brown that gave the Tigers a 55-50 lead.

Cherry went into a delay offense at that point, finally taking a shot when Asuma put in a layup with 3:35 left, making it 57-50. Noah Sundquist was fouled while scoring with 3:07 on the clock; he made the foul shot for a 60-51 margin and every basket for Cherry after that was a layup.

Sundquist was the hero, finishing with 30 points while playing all 36 minutes. Asuma played 21 minutes and had 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Asuma had been in similar foul trouble only once during the season, in an 86-75 loss to Minnehaha Academy on Dec. 17. In that game, Sundquist scored 29 points, Tigers coach Jordan Christenson said.

“He's been doing this all year, so it was nice to see it on a bigger stage,” Christianson said.

“We had guys in foul trouble. Like I told them after the game, the thing I like about them is they always stay composed. Our big gun is on the bench with foul trouble and everyone was able to calm the storm, stay ready, stay composed and trust our preparation that we’ve had all year. It worked out for us.”

Border West was led by Clint Determan with 19 points and Dylan Bainbridge with 12.

Cherry will play Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in Friday’s semifinals at Target Center. The Knights defeated Nevis 80-62. In the other Class A quarterfinals, New Life Academy defeated Sacred Heart 62-46 and Spring Grove edged Mankato Loyola 39-38.

 A Five-Day Tournament?

The Timberwolves had a home game Wednesday night, making Target Center unavailable for high school games that day and causing the tournaments to be held over five days instead of the usual four. The largest impact is on the Class 2A quarterfinal winners. Those games were played Tuesday, with the semifinals Friday and championship game Saturday.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 

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