The Sleepy Eye Indians boys' basketball team traveled to St. Mary's on Thursday, Mar. 2, to play the Knights in the first round of the Section 2A playoffs.

The Sleepy Eye Indians boys’ basketball team traveled to St. Mary’s on Thursday, Mar. 2, to play the Knights in the first round of the Section 2A playoffs.

Sleepy Eye 81

St. Mary’s 54

The results were in and teams were ranked. The rankings pitted the two hometown teams against each other in the first round of the playoffs. The gym at St. Mary’s was packed to capacity. Caleb Christensen came out hot shooting a three-pointer—he would get three in the first half.

“We worked on being patient on offense,” said Indians head coach Shane Heiderscheidt. “We took our time and didn’t force it.” The Indians set the pace for most of the first half. The Knights opened up with Alex Woitas putting in two points, followed by Nick Labat with a three-pointer. “We share the ball,” said Labat. “It doesn’t have to be all one guy doing it.”

“I was pleased with how the game started,” said Tim Milliard, Knights head coach. “We knew it would be a tough game going into it.”

Woitas and Labat led the Knights in the first half, getting six points each, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Indians’ offense. “We needed to be a little more patient,” Woitas said. “Find our rhythm and swing the ball more.”

Indian Avery Stevens came down the court and made several key plays, layups and steals. “Avery Stevens played very well tonight,” Heiderscheidt said. “He’s been changing all season in his game.”

For the Knights, Cole Owens sank a three-pointer and finished the half with a two-pointer off a rebound. The game went to halftime 35-27, Indians. “We wanted to play hard for our teammates,” said Indian Ben Laffen. “You just gotta go out and make shots.”

In the second half, the Indians’ Zach Haala got hot on the ball, sinking a three-pointer and then a layup. He went on to score 18 points in the second half. “We lost two games to these guys,” said Haala. “It gave us an intensity to want to win.” Labat fired back with a three-pointer for the Knights.

As the clock ran down Laffen, Haala and Stevens took the Indians on a run and widened the gap to 20 points. “I just wanted to win for my seniors,” said Laffen. “It’s their last year and I want us to go as far as we can.” Not ready to go down, Knight Owens made one last push, sinking three three-pointers to get the Knights to 54 points.

With three minutes left on the clock, coach Heiderscheidt sent in the bench to finish the game. With only a minute left in the game, Indian Paco Eliserio sank a three-pointer and put his team over 80. The Indians recovered the ball from the Knights and kept it from them until the clock ran out. “The boys played with fire tonight,” Heiderscheidt said. “I like it, they played like I told them all season they could play.”

With the win, the Indians advanced to play Cedar Mountain/Comfrey, and the Knights’ season came to an end. “After it was over we didn’t really talk about the game,” said coach Milliard. “We talked about what kind of group we had become and what kind of men they were becoming. I’m going to miss this team.”

“I’m glad I went out again after being away for two years,” said Knights senior Nathan Schroepfer. “I like the coaching staff and playing with this group of guys. I feel like some games we lit it up and then sometime we couldn’t throw it in the ocean.”

“I’m going to miss going to practice and seeing the guys,” Woitas said. “I’m going to miss playing against guys I know and my brother over at Cathedral.”

The Knights were led by Owens with 19 points and nine rebounds. Labat scored 11 points and four rebounds. Woitas got eight points and three rebounds, followed by Colin Ludewig with seven points and seven rebounds.

The Indians were led by Laffen with 22 points. Haala got 18 points and Christensen put up 12.