Rockin’ the rim: Crusaders show off athleticism in playoff loss

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The Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team ended the season with a lot of highs and lows March 9, falling 73-65 to Cleveland in the Section 2A Tournament.

“It was an emotional roller coaster,” coach Dan Perrel said.

The Crusaders started on a ridiculous high, as Baden Noennig and Garrett Tjernagel wowed all those in the crowd with monstrous dunks.

“That was fantastic,” Perrel said. “That was the best high school, raw athleticism I’ve ever been associated with.”

Noennig got the rim early with a putback dunk, followed by a slam on the fastbreak. Tjernagel followed moments later with a reverse jam from the post.

“He just threw it down like hes done it forever,” Perrel said.

The aerial display had the Clippers of Cleveland reeling, forcing a timeout with the Crusaders up 13-4.

After the opening high, Mayer Lutheran hit a low point, as the Clippers gained the lead on a 11-0 run.

“We had quite a few turnovers – we struggled with nerves I think,” Perrel said.

The Crusaders finished the game with 21 turnovers, which accounted for a sizable portion of Cleveland’s points.

Though they struggled with turnovers, the Crusaders managed to go toe-to-toe with the No. 2 seeded Clippers. Cole Hagen, who finished with a team-high 20 points, hit a number of three pointers to keep momentum from swinging completely in Cleveland’s favor.

Branden Carlson was also responsible for a big three-pointer, as the junior beat the buzzer in style with a half court shot, ending the roller coaster of a first half on a high.

Holding a slim lead at the break, 32-31, Tjernagel looked to give the Crusaders a boost to start the half. The junior center put up 12 of his 14 points early in the second half, getting to the rim at will.

Mayer Lutheran’s lead was still tenuous as Cleveland hung around. The Clippers started to chip away and ultimately build a lead. Even though the Crusaders were playing well, the ball refused to go in for them.

“It’s a double-edged sword – you know they are not beating you because they are so much better than you, you are just missing shots,” Perrel said.

Combining misses with Cleveland’s strong free throw shooting, the Crusaders could not overcome the deficit, with the playoff loss ending their season. The loss was tough, but there is plenty of upside looking forward. Mayer Lutheran loses a few seniors to graduation, but returns much of the squad next year looking improve on an already impressive showing.

“There were flashes of unbelievably good high school basketball,” Perrel said.

In addition to the returning players, Perrel said there are a couple of freshman waiting behind the scenes, ready to make a splash next season.