MANKATO - It was a first half the Sleepy Eye St. Mary's boys basketball team would like to forget.
Thankfully for the Knights, they did forget about it and put together a second half they're going to remember for a long time.
The Knights came out with plenty of wide open looks in the first half, but the only problem was they didn't hit many of them. They found themselves down 36-26 at halftime to Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City and they went into the locker room with a message - don't panic.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's Mike Hirsch (4) is fouled by Austin Mueller of Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City during the Knights' Section 2A playoff win Thursday at Mankato West High School.
The Knights re-grouped and seniors Sean Mathiowetz, Jordan Anderson and Kansas Adams hit some big shots in the latter part of the game.
St. Mary's erased the deficit and completed the comeback, defeating the Falcons 81-78 in the Section 2A, North Subsection playoffs Thursday at Mankato West.
The win means the Knights move on to face Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at 8 p.m. Monday at Gustavus Adolphus College.
The Knights, a team that depends very much on the 3-pointer for a majority of their offense, didn't have that part of the game working in the first half. They only made one 3-pointer in the half and they found themselves down by double digits heading into the break.
"It was one of the worst halfs of basketball we've played all year," said Adams, who hit a couple of big 3s in the second half. "Coach [Tim] Milliard said we should've been down by 20 at halftime."
The Knights were led by Mathiowetz, who finished the game with 20 points, 14 rebounds and seven steals.
Anderson finished with 18 points and six rebounds while Adams pitched in with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Knights have had a bad first half before, the biggest one that comes to mind was in the Section 2A title game a year ago against Mountain Lake Area. This time, however, the Knights were able to prevail with the strength of free throws as they hit 31-of-42 from the line.
"It was looking like MSU [Minnesota State University, Mankato, the site of last year's Section 2A title game]," Mathiowetz said.?"We had 11 turnovers in the first half and only hit one 3-pointer."
The Knights played from behind most of the game. In the second half, they cut the lead down to about five several times, only to see the Falcons go up by double digits again. But after Anderson hit 2-of-3 from the line to tie it at 62, they grabbed the lead on a Mike Hirsch free throw.
On their next possession, Adams hit a 3 with 6:12 left to give the Knights a 66-62 lead, and Adams later hit a 3 as the Knights stretched the lead to 71-64. Meanwhile, the Knights held the Falcons scoreless for more than five minutes.
The Knights (23-3) were able to hit free throws down the stretch to advance.
Dylan Hoerchler led the Falcons with 26 points and Taylor Larson finished with 25 points. Jacob Belgum had 11 points for the Falcons, who end the season at 17-12.