Its the dreaded cross-metro trip as I venture out to Tartan to see the Titans take on White Bear Lake. Its section 4AAAA 3 vs 6 in the quarterfinals. A very late arrival means I only have time to grab a quick Pepsi before tip and I barely catch any of the Tartan band. White Bear fans out in their tradition blaze orange. I always have to do a double-take when I see that. Reminds me too much of opening week of deer season in Wisconsin.
Darrion Strong coast to coast for 2 and then knocks down a 3. 5-2 Tartan just over 2 minutes in. Nick Weiland coast to coast and finishes with a pretty spin. 6 in a row for White Bear to put them up 8-5. Then Eric Gebeke out on the break, loses the ball and hangs on the rim in what seemed to be a pretty clear attempt to protect himself. Front 2 officials let it go and then late from beyond the opposite foul line, here comes Mr. Showtime himself. Its The Official Formerly Known as Al Sharpton making the technical call on Gebeke for hanging on the rim. Brutal and it was indicative of a large chunk of the entire crew's work. That sparks a 7-0 Tartan run with frosh star Marshawn Wilson making the technical free throws and knocking down a 3 vs the Bears 2-3 zone. Zach Meyer already with a bucket and an assist from the block, goes to work with a free throw off a high low feed (we'll see that action again later) and another bucket on the block. Beau Smit with a nice reverse layup and the Bears have countered with their own 7-0 run. Meyer with a putback and a pretty dropstep for 2 from the right block. 19-16 Bears at the 7:22 mark. Kharie Kirkland with a pair of putbacks and another Wilson 3. Then a Tartan turnover that they reject at the other end. Darrion Strong comes back and cashes it in for a 3 point play. 26-21 Tartan at the 4:43 mark. Tartan goes 4 corners spread/5 out look to kill the last 3 minutes. 28-25 Tartan at the half.
Soph center Brody Jackson with a bucket from Strong to keep the Tartan lead at 3. Then a pair of White Bear Hoops puts them up 33-32 with 14:37 left and they promptly want the Momentum Killer timeout. After Gebeke flashes to the middle and knocks down a jumper, Tartan starts to find the range. Strong for 3. Then the Bears go 2-3 zone and Mike Hudspeth punishes that with a pair of 3s. Kirkland scores on an inbounds after a Bears turnover. 44-39 Titans with 9:45 left. White Bear scores to break the run and promptly takes a timeout. I've beaten that drum a ton, but I'll say it again. I've never understood coaches who wait for their own bucket to take a timeout during a run. Senior Nick Weiland bring White Bear back. He gets in to the lane and gets his runner to go off glass. Then Tartan spreads and misses and Weiland brings it back and no fear with the pullup for 3 from the left wing. 46 all with 6:50 left. Strong makes a 3 and Tartan gets a stop after a timeout. They stay with the spread and after a long possession they miss a 3. Meyer counters inside for 2 with 4:30 left. Then after a Titans free throw, Weiland to the basket and the lefty finish is good. Tied at 50 with 3:40 to play.
Tartan can't score on their possession but the Bears give it back on a turnover with 2:27 to play. Tartan spread and patient again. Strong on the drive to his right. Wilson with a great back cut out of the right corner and Strong finds him. But he can't get the layup to go in and White Bear Lake has it back with under 2 minutes to go. They get it across the timeline and call timeout with 1:44 to play. Interestingly enough they stay high and wide and end up moving the ball around not really looking for much until they get another timeout with 13.3 to play. Tartan sees the set and calls timeout of their own to set the defense. The Bears go to the same horns to high low action for Meyer that was successful in the first half. He catches in the middle of the lane and finds a cutting Beau Smit for the reverse layup with 1.4 seconds left, WOW! Tartan gets a timeout and they put 2.2 seconds back on the clock. The set is a cross screen for Strong at halfcourt, but Kirkland either loses the handle or doesn't like the pass. He dribbles it and its back to White Bear Lake. Tartan has to give 2 fouls, which they do with no time running off. Gebeke is fouled with 1.3 left. He makes 1 of 2 and a halfcourt heave is no good. #6 seed White Bear Lake pulls off the upset at #3 Tartan 53-50.
For Tartan, Darrion Strong scores 14 of his 20 in the 1st half. Very quiet 2nd half. Marshawn Wilson and Kharie Kirkland 8 each. I liked the idea of their spread offense and was very surprised that White Bear Lake came out and played them. Tartan only loses 1 senior, Kyle Von Schmidt Pauli so expect them to be a preseason favorite in this section next year. The Titans finish their season at 20-7.
For White Bear Lake, too much mullet. Zach Meyer outstanding with 17 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists. That included assists on the 1st and last baskets of the game. Nick Weiland 11 points, Beau Smit 10 points for the other Bears in double figures. It looked early like the Bears would struggle against the full court man pressure from Tartan but they managed as the game went on. In a bit of surprise they managed to hold the ball for 90 seconds at the end before setting up the winning possession. White Bear Lake is now 15-12. They advance to play #2 seed Woodbury on Saturday at East Ridge. Woodbury won 68-57 at home in February but the Bears took Woodbury to OT before losing at home 81-78. Meyer has a chance to put up another big game in that one.