FARGO -- In preparation for this week's Class A state basketball tournament, Jamestown High School's Jacob Hilgemann told his teammates:
"We just have to go out there and play basketball."
The junior's words -- and shots -- were spot on Thursday night at Scheels Arena facing Devils Lake in the state quarterfinals. Hilgemann helped lead the Blue Jays to a 71-54 win over the Firebirds. Jamestown moves on to Friday's semifinals and will play West Fargo Sheyenne at 8:30 p.m.
"Jacob Hilgemann came out and executed at the highest level," Blue Jay head coach Jacoby Lloyd said. "We haven't seen it quite like that this year but we knew he was capable of it. It was really encouraging to see. We all believe in him, he just needs to believe in himself like he did tonight. It was awesome."
The 6-foot-2 guard broke the seal with a 2-point jumper and the Jays held the lead the entire 36 minutes. With only 7:27 gone in the first, Hilgemann had already accounted for nine of the Blue Jays' 16 points.
Hilgemann ended his first half with 21 points burying a pair from 3-point range to help the Jays to a 13-8 scoring run to put the Jays up 35-18. Jamestown's No. 23 would end his night with the number stitched on his jersey shooting 10 of 16.
"It just took us a couple of minutes to get going and we were spot on from there.," Hilgemann said. "I think the stage is just set where it is state and everything is on the line and stuff like that. We just have to go out and play basketball."
Junior state tournament veteran Carson Lamp posted an 18-point game, while newcomer Brooks Carroll tallied 15. Carroll shot for three from 3-point range and went 6 of 9 from the floor. Lamp shot for 7 of 16 from the field and collected seven rebounds at the basket.
"Carson Lamp really helped us in that second half by knocking down 15-footers," Lloyd said. "I am just really proud of how our guys maintained our composure and kept on playing."
It was a half that needed the composure due to some monstrous dunks from the Firebirds' Grant Nelson. The North Dakota State University basketball commit helped the Firebirds back from a 24-point deficit, putting up big numbers in the paint. Nelson was 13 of 23 inside and slammed home 12 of his 27 points in the final eight minutes. The senior also tallied five blocks and 14 rebounds.
"They figured out what guys on our team weren't knocking down shots and they sagged off of them and took points away in the paint," Lloyd said of the Firebirds' fight.
Nelson banked in his final two-point bucket of the night to make it 67-54 Jays with 1:30 left to play. JHS responded with Lamp knocking down his second and third foul shots, en route to his perfect 100% at the line. Isaac Mimong is now 1 of 1 on the arena floor ending the quarterfinal with a two-pointer to secure the win.
"I thought our guys did a really nice job of handling their first state tournament game," Lloyd said. "This was really encouraging for us to see our guys come out and play fast. We didn't do that last weekend (at the West Regional Tournament) in really any of our games.
"It's a lot easier to play relaxed and play fast when you can build a lead right away or at least sustain a small lead or get a few baskets early."
The 21-4 Blue Jays will need to do more of the same Friday. The matchup with the Mustangs will determine if the defending state champs have a chance to claim the title again. Devils Lake will go head-to-head with Dickinson at 2 p.m.
"We just told them in practice yesterday, it's just a bigger stage-- it's not more -- it's just basketball," Hilgemann said. "Not to worry about all the fans cheering or all the fans screaming at you. Just play your game and not worry about it."
Jamestown 71, Devils Lake 54
DL 26 28 -- 54
JHS 41 30 -- 71
DL -- Grant Nelson 27, Michael Widmer 12, Joey Frelich 10, Kyler Longie 3, Braden Fee 2. Totals: 25 FG, 1-4 FT, 10 fouls. 3-pointers: Frelich 2, Longie.
JHS -- Jacob Hilgemann 23, Carson Lamp 18, Brooks Carroll 15, Keith Levin 6, Devin Beach 5, Luke Van Berkom 2, Isaac Mimong. Totals: 29 FG, 5-7 FT, 10 fouls. 3-pointers: Hilgemann 3, Carroll 3, Lamp, Beach.