SECTION 5AAA BOYS BASKETBALL: Tigers’ playoff run cut short by Monticello

DELANO — Anything can happen in March.

Unfortunately, when the scintillating “anything” does happen, there’s a team left watching as their season comes to a close. The Delano boys basketball team fell to seventh-seeded Monticello at home Friday night 56-46 in the Section 5AAA championship game and were on the short end of that tagline.

Monticello’s defensive scheme of a box-and-one or triangle-and-two worked well, keeping Trey Longstreet and Will Strandemo at bay and forcing the Tiger depth to create and make shots.

For 18 minutes, they were in really solid shape; Longstreet had just two points at the break and Delano led 22-18 thanks to a buzzer-beating prayer from Michael Krueger. Carter Tool picked up some responsibility on offense, feeding the ball to the open man.

The Magic missed some close-range shots that were sure to turn around in the second frame, and that’s exactly what happened down the stretch.

“They’ve been playing really well lately. If you told me before the season they’d be a seven seed in the section,  I would say you’re crazy,” Delano coach Terry Techam said. ”I thought we were prepared for it, but we missed some shots and they hit a few really big ones.”

Monticello’s Carson Kolles caught fire, putting up a total of 26 points at the rim and from outside. Delano answered, cutting a six-point Magic lead down to one with two minutes left. Some near misses in the paint and a couple turnovers pushed the comeback out of reach, though, and Monticello’s lead was up to 10 in the final minute.

Delano’s starters came out of the game to a standing ovation and the seniors on the bench got their final game action until the buzzer sounded. It’s been anything but a normal year for a team that was already quite inexperienced at the varsity level when they took the floor in early January.

“With Trey as the only experienced returner and Levi Farniok going down four games in, if you told me we’d be the number one seed in the section I might not have believed you at the start of the season,” Techam said.

Longstreet’s decorated career comes to a close along with fellow seniors Tool, Ty Weiman, Colin Tolkkinen, Brock Zitzloff and Jack Norman, all of whom made the most of their time as a Tiger. The season can end so quickly, Techam wished they could get one more opportunity.

“They really worked hard. I just told them they were really fun to coach. They gave you everything they had, every single day,” he said. “There were no issues whatsoever; whatever role they were given, they were going to give their all to help the team win.”

Delano finishes the season with a record of 13-7 and will return varsity contributors in Krueger, Strandemo, Farniok and Trent Techam next year. That’s more experience to work with than this past offseason. Regardless, the Tigers proved in 2021 that they can reload with the best of Minnesota high school basketball.

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