One streak was extended and one ended Wednesday in the championship game of the 2015 Northwest Russ Smith Holiday Classic boys high school basketball tournament.
A 71-68 Thief River Falls overtime victory over Red Lake closed out the four-team, two-day event.
That the championship trophy stayed in Thief River Falls should not be a surprise. The host team has won the tournament seven straight times. They have 17 titles overall. Add in another seven runner-up finishes and it makes for 24 finals in the 33-year history of the event.
But while the Prowlers celebrated their continued tournament success, Red Lake saw a season-opening nine-game winning streak come to an end.
Champion at the eight-team Northland Community and Technical College/KTRF Invitational that wrapped up Dec. 10, Red Lake fell to 0-3 in Russ Smith title games.
Just like they did in the semifinals, the Prowlers put together a title game comeback effort. They trailed Kittson County Central by a dozen points in the second half before overtaking the Bearcats 65-60 Tuesday. The next night, Red Lake jumped in front 8-0 at the start and had a 12-2 advantage three minutes into the game.
“That shows the resiliency of our kids,” said Thief River Falls coach Joe Wasfaret. “They know that no matter what the score is, they’re always in the game. They never give up, and I have tremendous respect for them for that.”
Free throws kept Thief River Falls from facing an even bigger early-game deficit. The Prowlers scored seven of their first 11 points on foul shots. They caught Red Lake at 28-28 on two free throws by Carter Ueland with 4:39 remaining in the first half and went ahead for the first time on a Brady Hoffard free throw 27 seconds later.
A 14-for-17 showing at the line sent the Prowlers into halftime owning a 42-35 lead.
Thief River Falls enjoyed a 51-42 scoreboard advantage on a short jumper from the side by Kelby Jobe with 11:01 to play in the second half.
Red Lake, however, tied it at 55-55 on a William Morrison 3-pointer with 4:38 on the clock.
Hoffard scored on a basket from underneath and moments later dropped in a free throw that was followed by a Payton Graham 3-pointer that re-opened a 61-55 Thief River Falls lead with 1:58 to play.
Red Lake responded in dramatic fashion when Bryce Cloud hit back-to-back 3-point shots for a 61-61 tie with 61 seconds left.
Both teams had shots in the final minute, but nobody connected, resulting in a four-minute overtime.
Red Lake started the extra period with its ninth 3-pointer of the night – by Morrison.
That’s when the Prowlers’ Colton Koestner stepped forward with two baskets – his first of the night – 16 seconds apart for a 65-64 Thief River Falls lead. He scored off a rebound and on the next trip down the floor connected from underneath.
A pair of Morrison free throws put Red Lake back in front, 66-65, with 2:24 remaining.
Hoffard then powered his way to the basket, making the lay-up and adding a free throw when he was fouled on the shot with two minutes left.
Single free throws by Jeremy Martin and Cloud tied it 68-68 with 1:36 on the clock.
Hoffard finished off a game-high 23-point performance by making a tie-breaking free throw with 1:25 to go and then connecting on two foul shots with just 18.2 seconds showing to wrap it up.
“That was an intense battle,” offered Wasfaret. “Both teams played hard. It was one of the funest games I’ve ever been involved in.”
Graham and Will Anderson joined Hoffard in double figures for the winners with 10 points each. Cloud led Red Lake with 18 points. Morrison and Martin had 13 each.
Thief River Falls went 21-for-56 from the field (38 percent) and 23-for-32 at the free throw line. Red Lake was 23-for-55 from the floor (42 percent) and 13-for-19 at the line.
A 35-34 Thief River Falls rebound edge included a 15-9 advantage on the offensive end.
With both teams playing hard, tenacious basketball in front of another large crowd, turnover numbers mounted: 30 charged against Red Lake; 26 by Thief River Falls.
Thief River Falls improved to 7-4 with the win.
1 2 ot T
Red Lake 35 26 7 68
Thief River Falls 42 19 10 71
Red Lake – Jamie Cook 7, William Morrison 13, Rob Mclain 8, Kendall Whitefeather 3, Bryce Cloud 18, Anthony Beaulieu 3, Jeremy Martin 13, Randy Norris 3.
TRF – Cole Johnson 3, Colton Koestner 6, Brady Hoffard 23, Blake Boen 8, Carter Ueland 2, Will Anderson 10, Payton Graham 10, Isaac Olson 7, Kelby Jobe 2.