By Jeff Meder
Journal Sports Writer
SLEEPY EYE - Thursday night's Section 2A, North Subsection playoff game resembled a championship contest because both teams played like it was a title game. In the end, Sleepy Eye survived as it defeated Minnesota Valley Lutheran 79-71.
Sleepy Eye got the opening tip-off, but MVL drew first blood on a basket by Chad Lease. The Indians' John Mangen dropped two free throws to tie the game.
Later, MVL's Ryan Grunke hit a 3-pointer to give the Chargers a 7-2 lead.
The Chargers went on a 8-0 run on a two free throws by Grunke and 3-point baskets by Justin Bruns and Grunke.
Sleepy Eye then used a full-court press that helped close the gap. Sleepy Eye's Brandon Polesky hit a 3-pointer before the buzzer and the Chargers led 33-31 at halftime.
The second half opened with Sleepy Eye's Jake Trebesch hitting two free throws, tying the game at 33-33.
MVL had little runs, but its lead was never more than seven points. Sleepy Eye tied the game at 54-each with 7:40 left in the game.
At 6:03, Tyler Netzke made two free throws to give the Indians their first lead of the night. After Lease scored inside, Sleepy Eye took the lead for good with about three minutes left in the game when Juan Montemayor drilled a 3-pointer for a 68-65 lead.
The next time down the floor, Montemayor got an inside basket to make it 70-65.
Later on, the Chargers were forced to foul as Sleepy Eye tried to keep the ball in its possession. The Indians made free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Two 3-pointers by Kris Goetzke were too little, too late for the Chargers.
Polesky led all scorers with 21 points for the Indians. Tyler Netzke added 15 points while teammates Montemayor and Matt Schroepfer each scored 13 points. Jake Trebesch added 10 points for Sleepy Eye.
Bruns led MVL with 17 points. Grunke had 16 points and Lease added 15 points
"We played well for 33 minutes, (but) the last three minutes we made mistakes, and we didn't recover," MVL coach Craig Morgan said. "I'm proud of the guys. The whole team was outstanding this year."
"You have to credit MVL, they didn't give up and they played hard," Sleepy Eye coach Brian Polesky said. "We hung in there, and the guys took shots at critical times.
"We've played them in some tough games, and this was another one," Polesky added.
MVL finishes its season at 4-22.
The seventh-seeded Indians will (10-15) play No. 2 seed Cedar Mountain/Comfrey in Morgan at 7 p.m. Monday night.