3/25/2013 3:36:00 PM Bears finish special season at state tournament
Scoring 17 points, Bears junior forward JR Bascom jumps above the Packers defense in the second half of The Blake School’s 59-56 Class 3A quarterfinal loss to Austin Wednesday, March 20 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. PHOTOS:
After a somewhat lackluster victory early in the season, the coaching staff of the Blake boys' basketball team entered the locker room and calmly demanded more from their players.
"After that first game the coaches said to us 'let's be something special,'" junior forward JR Bascom said.
The Bears ended up going 22-7, they survived in overtime in the section semifinals over Richfield and defeated Holy Family Catholic in the section finals to make the program's first-ever appearance at the state tournament.
"My older brother played at Blake and I watched them win four games one year," Bascom said. "Just to see how far the program has come is incredible. It was a good journey and it felt amazing to be a part of it. By the end of the season we were all clicking together."
The Bears were clicking for most of last Wednesday's state quarterfinal game against undefeated Austin at Williams Arena, but a rough last five minutes cost them the game and ended their season.
After a mid-range jumper by Blake junior John Veil, the Bears led 49-42 with under five minutes to play.
But things went south after that as the Bears committed five costly turnovers in the final five minutes, while the Packers hit two big 3-pointers to turn the momentum.
The Packers finished the game on a 17-7 run and eventually claimed a 59-56 victory.
"After the game it was pretty quiet in the locker room because we put everything we had into that game and that season," Bascom said. "We felt that we lost it for ourselves. It has hard because it was one of those games where you look back and think that you could have changed things by making one or two more plays."
The Bears made plenty of plays in the first half as they had the No. 2-seeded Packers on the ropes.
The Bears made seven of their last nine shots to end the first half and take a 31-24 lead into halftime.
Bascom and Veil combined to score the final 12 points of the first half as each had eight points at the intermission.
Meanwhile, the Bears did a great job defensively on Austin's star senior forward Joe Aase. Aase, who received a Division I scholarship at Davidson College for next year, went just 3-of-9 from the field for seven points in the first half.
But Aase found a way to score 13 points in the second half to finish with a game-high 20 points.
His 3-pointer with 4 minutes and 53 seconds left in the game ignited Austin's late-game rally.
Another 3-pointer by Austin's Ajuda Nywesh with 2 minutes and 58 seconds remaining trimmed the Blake lead to one at 51-50.
The Packers took their first lead of the second half 30 seconds later when Nywesh hit a pair of free throws.
With the Bears unable to counter, the Packers were able to salt the game away at the free throw line.
Aase's 20 points came on 7-of-17 shots from the field, while he also added eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
But the big story was Nywesh, who came off the bench for 15 points, six rebounds and five steals.
Bascom led the Bears with 17 points and nine rebounds, while three other Bears finished in double figures.
Veil and senior Blaine Crawford finished with 11 points apiece, while senior Kebu Johnson added 10 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
Three-point shooting and free throw shooting proved to be major factors in the outcome. Austin made nine 3-pointers, while the Bears made three from the long range.
Austin finished 18-of-25 at the free throw line, while the Bears missed some opportunities at the stripe by going 7-of-15.
The Bears will lose two key players from this year's team to graduation in Johnson and Crawford.
Johnson has been a fixture on the team since his eighthgrade season, while Crawford's size and athleticism gave the Bears a talented post player.
The team will have some key players returning though in Bascom, Veil, starting guard Johnny Curran and key reserve John Augustine.
"Our style is going to be a little different next year I feel like because this year we had two 6-6 guys who could bang in the post and next year we won't have that," Bascom said. "We will still have great coaching and kids who want to work hard. I'm pretty confident we'll have a good season, but it's going to be different."