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Or at least that’s what Fieldcrest boys basketball coach Matt Winkler thinks.
After Winkler and his Knights pulled out a 56-52 victory over Rockridge in Thursday’s Class 2A Farmington Sectional semifinal, Fieldcrest will waste little time in getting back to business.
After Fieldcrest pulled out the emotional win, the Knights (25-5) will play Monmouth-Roseville (25-4) for the sectional championship at 7:30 tonight in a rematch of last year’s sectional final.
“It’s Monmouth-Roseville/ Fieldcrest Round 2,” Winkler said after Thursday’s game, which was moved to Thursday after Tuesday’s winter storm pushed both semifinals back a day.
“I can’t believe a year has gone by since we’ve played them. It just seems like last month. I have a lot of my former players here. It’s going to be a battle. We’ve just got to let this one go quick. It’s a quick turnaround, and we just have to come back and play just as tough (Friday). We don’t want one win. We want two.” Fieldcrest beat the Titans 75-69 in double overtime last year before the Knights fell to Rockford Lutheran in the super-sectional.
“We like our chances,” Winkler said. “Monmouth-Roseville is a great team and is very well-coached, but we’ve got to pull it together and get a game plan together tonight. It’s going to be a little bit of a lack of sleep, but that’s OK. I want to be here (Friday) night. The guys want to be here.”
Fieldcrest proved that Thursday.
The Knights took an early lead and never trailed after the game’s first 1:16. However, Fieldcrest’s third straight sectional win was anything but easy.
The Knights took a 34-22 lead with 3:57 left in the third quarter and held a 41-31 cushion entering the fourth quarter.
However, Rockridge came roaring back as it opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 41-41 and later at 43-43 with 4:53 left.
Fieldcrest senior Kyle Crowley — who finished with a game-high 20 points — hit one his four 3-point shots to break the tie and give the Knights a 46-43 lead with 4:08 to play.
On four separate occasions over the next three minutes, Rockridge scored to pull within a point only to have Fieldcrest respond to increase the lead back to three.
Eventually, the Knights broke the trend and pushed it to 53-48 with 1:07 remaining.
A basket by the Titans’ Bryan Heath again cut the deficit to three at 53-50 with 53.6 seconds to go.
The Knights then successfully ran time off the clock as sophomore Jackson Puetz passed up a wide open layup.
Instead, Puetz pulled the ball out, was later fouled and hit two double bonus free throws to give the Knights a 55-50 lead with 26.2 seconds left.
A lay-in by Rockridge’s 6-foot-7 post Ethan Happ trimmed the Fieldcrest lead to 55-52 with 14.8 seconds to go before Knights freshman Drew Barth was fouled with 10.6 seconds left.
After Barth missed the first of his double-bonus free throws, he hit the second to give Fieldcrest a 56-52 lead.
Rockridge missed two uncontested shots in the final 10 seconds and Puetz grabbed the rebound off the second miss to seal the Fieldcrest victory.
“We had some resolve and a lot of heart tonight — a lot of heart,” Winkler said. “We just wouldn’t go away.”
Despite battling foul trouble, Happ finished with a game-high 25 points for Rockridge.
In addition to Crowley’s team-high 20 points, Fieldcrest’s Brady Sanders added 14 points and Cole Klendworth had 10 points and nine rebounds.
After starting 0-8 in sectional games in its history, Thursday’s win was the third straight sectional victory for Fieldcrest, which is looking to repeat as sectional champions.
A win Friday would advance the Knights to the Class 2A NIU Super-Sectional at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against the winner the Class 2A Byron Sectional championship between Winnebago and Sterling Newman.
However, before it looks ahead, Fieldcrest knows it has business to attend to tonight against M-R.
“The snow day kind of hurt us, but it’s alright,” said Sanders, the 2011-12 NewsTribune Boys Basketball Player of the Year. “Monmouth is coming off two days (since its last game), but it only has one more day (of rest) than us.
“Besides, if you can’t get pumped up for a sectional championship game, than you shouldn’t be playing them. We’ll be alright.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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