Central boys fall to Belle Plaine in playoff opener

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Logan Corlett and Cade Zellmann help Kellen Erpenbach up after he got fouled late in regulation in Central’s 70-69 playoff overtime loss to Belle Plaine on Monday. (Adam Gruenewald/The Times)

By Adam Gruenewald
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Central boys’ basketball ended their season in a thrilling overtime loss to Belle Plaine at home on Monday, 70-69.
Andrew Hunsader proved to be the hero in the game as he hit a left wing 3-pointer for the Tigers with 1.4 seconds left in the extra session, having missed one just prior.
Central then had a late desperation chance to win the game but Cade Zellmann 3/4 court inbounds pass was deflected by Nathan Hermann and Carter Clemensen’s 3-point try rimmed out.
Head coach Tom Doyscher, who said he coached his last game for Central, was quick to credit Belle Plaine.
“I thought we could guard them in the zone and still get to their 3-point shooters, but our kid turned his head and we gave up a good look,” said Doyscher. “Give (Hunsader) credit. He had the guts to knock it down.”
The wild finish capped off an exciting night where Central managed to fight back from a first half 37-31 deficit, and then Belle Plaine scratched back from a 63-57 deficit late in the game.
“We had our chances in regulation and missed too many free throws,” said Doyscher. “Played hard.”
A Reed Wischnack putback had given the Raiders that 62-57 edge with under 2 minutes to go, but Brody Curtiss and Hermann, who had a game-high 25 points, both converted 2-of-2 from the line to cut it to two. Hermann later got a steal and a hoop for a 1-point Belle Plaine advantage but Kellen Erpenbach, who weathered through a bout of sickness all game, managed to get fouled with .3 seconds left and hit 1-of-2 to send the game into overtime.
“At 3 p.m., he wasn’t playing he was so sick,” said Doyscher. “Kellen played his guts out… He made the 3 in overtime when it looked like it was over.”
In the extra session, Noah Hastings gave Belle Plaine the lead with a putback after several offensive rebounds and Brody Curtiss then made 1-of-2 for a 3-point lead with 1:14 remaining.
Erpenbach, who scored 14 points, then hit a 3-pointer and later hit 3-of-4 down the stretch for a 69-67 lead with 17 seconds left, but Hunsader hit a 3-pointer for the win.
Carter Clemensen, who defended Curtiss well and limited him to 19 points, also carried much of the load offensively for Central in regulation as he finished with 19 points and came up with multiple timely scores with Erpenbach sitting at times with the illness.
“Carter was really strong right down to the end here,” said Doyscher, sharing that Clemensen finished just 12 points shy of 1,000 career points. “Carter is such a competitor. He played very well.”
With the victory, Belle Plaine advanced to a 2AA quarterfinal against #1 Jordan at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 9.
Central boys basketball (17-10, 6-6) concludes the season after rebounding well from a slow start in Minnesota River Conference play.
“It’s just hard,” said Doyscher. “That’s sudden death basketball… Our six shooter wasn’t full of six bullets.”
Seniors for Central include 1,000-point scorer and NAIA Dakota Wesleylan University commit Kellen Erpenbach, Carter Clemensen, Zach Stockman, Matt Brinkman, Matthew Johnson and Mykel Conrad.
“It was a great group of kids and I had fun with them for three years,” said Doyscher. “They are all a great group of kids. It’s always hard to let them go.”
Doyscher, who just concluded his third season, said he will not be back with the team as he told them at the start of the year.
“I’m done. This is it for me,” he said. “There’s talent coming and there’s a couple of good prospects that can take the job. It’s time. I’m 63 and haven’t coached against a guy my age in a long time… No question I’ll miss them but it’s the time in my life where you got to do some other things.”
MRC teams and awards will be announced at a later date.

Belle Plaine 37 26 7 – 70
Central        31 32 6 – 69

Belle Plaine –  Andrew Hunsader 2 1-2 7, Noah Hastings 7 4-8 19, Brody Curtiss 6 5-6 19, Matt Nelson 0 0-0 0, Nathan Herman 8 6-7 25, Jack Otto 0 0-0 0, Tommy Dikmen 0 0-0 0, Kellen Bergs 0 0-0 0, Patrick Bigaouette 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 23 16-23 70
Central –  Carter Clemensen 8 0-1 19, Kellen Erpenbach 3 6-8 14, Cade Zellmann 4 0-0 8, Zach Stockman 3 2-2 8, Logan Corlett 6 0-0 14, Reilly O’Neil 1 0-0 2, Reed Wischnack 3 0-4 6, Nathan Worm 0 0-0 0, TOTALS – 28 8-15 69
Three Pointers – Belle Plaine 8 (Herman 3, Curtiss 2, Hunsader 2, Hastings), Central 7 (Clemensen 3, Erpenbach 2, Corlett 2)

Follow Adam Gruenewald on Twitter @adamgruenewald.