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Lions advance to ‘B’ semifinals

Eric Hylden Linton-HMB’s Jonathon Purinton (5) is defended by Cavalier’s Ryley Cleem (12) during Thursday’s state game at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. (Forum News Service)

GRAND FORKS — Officially, Austin Bernhardt is 6 feet, 1 inch in height on the Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock roster. That, Lions coach Dan Carr admits, is a tad bit exaggerated.

“He’s a blue-collar guy,” Carr said. “He’s not the 6-1 we list him at. He’s more like 5-10, 5-11. But he usually goes pretty hard. He’s a good rebounder.”

Bernhardt got the rebound that counted most Thursday. His offensive board and putback basket gave Linton-HMB a late lead. The Lions never relinquished it in edging Cavalier 53-51 in the quarterfinals of the North Dakota Class B boys high school basketball tournament at the Alerus Center.

With 1:20 remaining, Bernhardt slipped inside for a missed free throw, grabbed the basketball and scored for a 52-51 advantage — Linton-HMB’s first lead of the second half. A Johnathon Purintun free throw with 12 seconds left gave the Lions the final two-point advantage.

Linton-HMB managed only 18 second-half points. But that was two more than Cavalier scored. “It starts with the defense,” Lions forward Ryan Schneider said.

Cavalier closed the third quarter on a 5-2 run to take a 47-41 lead. But Linton-HMB rallied to tie the game at 48 with 3:39 remaining on an Andrew Small trey from the right wing.

Cavalier regained the lead when Ryan Chrest converted an offensive rebound into a 3-point play with 3:08 remaining. But those would be Cavalier’s final points. Purintun scored from the top of the key with two minutes left to pull Linton-HMB within one, setting up Bernhardt’s go-ahead basket.

“Our kids have played in so many games like this,” said Carr, whose 21-4 team is 9-2 in games decided by five or fewer points. “There were no easy games on our schedule. So we were used to games like this. We’ve seen the situation and come through before.”

The better second-half defense, Carr said, was because “we helped out better on Chrest and (Brock) Robbins. It didn’t seem like they were getting to the basket as well. And we did a better job on the boards.”

Cavalier had a chance to tie or go ahead in the final 10 seconds. But Robbins missed a 3-pointer from the right wing and the Tornadoes couldn’t convert two offensive rebounds into points.

“It wasn’t for lack of effort,” Cavalier coach Bryce Laxdal said. “The shots were there today. They just weren’t falling. Rebounding and finishing, those are what did us in.”

Small, who was 5-of-7 on 3-point shots, finished with 21 points. Schneider and Purintun added 13 each as that trio accounted for all but six of the Lions’ points.

Robbins scored 17 to lead Cavalier, with Deane Bjornson adding 12 and Chrest 10.

Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock 53,                    Cavalier 51

Linton-HMB 20 35 41 53

Cavalier 21 35 47 51

Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock — Austin Bernhardt 6, Ryan Schneider 13, Andrew Small 21, Johnathon Purintun 13.

Cavalier — Blaine Steiger 5, Chase Walton 1, Brock Robbins 17, Deane Bjornson 12, Ryan Chrest 10, Ethan Brown 6.