The Collegiate boys huddled around senior Jack Larsen’s ringing cell phone Tuesday night.
They were quiet in the locker room until teammate Cameron Christian answered the call by yelling, “let’s go!”
“The place just exploded,” Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel said. “They were screaming. I was screaming with them.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
It was a raucous moment packed with emotion following Collegiate’s 72-63 win over visiting Andale, which put the Spartans (16-3, 8-1 AV-CTL IV) in a tie with Andale (16-3, 8-1) for the AV-CTL IV title with one game to play.
The win came on senior night and without Christian, who had season-ending surgery Tuesday to repair a broken bone in his right hand and wasn’t at the game as he recuperated.
“He’s been our leading scorer, that offensive guy,” said Larsen, who scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting with four threes. “And with him being out, we adjusted quick, moved a couple guys around. It shows we’re not a one-man team.”
The injury to Christian, who’s father died less than two weeks ago, hit Fiegel hard.
“This is always a game you look so forward to,” Fiegel said. “But with Cam being out, I found myself struggling to be excited without one of our main guys. We dedicated this game to him.
“… I’ve got seven seniors, and they’re on a mission. We’re not going to let one guy going down distract us. We’ve got a great team. We’ve got to make some adjustments. Clearly, tonight we noticed a number of things — ‘Cam, he’s not there, we need someone to do that.’ ”
Collegiate shot 29 of 55 from the field, including 11 of 23 from three-point range
Yet Collegiate revealed few weaknesses against Andale, which beat Collegiate 53-42 on Jan. 8.
The Spartans forced 15 turnovers with nine steals and five blocked shots, including four by senior Jacob Newlin.
Collegiate moved the ball around quickly, looking for the open shots, and it paid off. The Spartans shot 29 of 55 from the field, including 11 of 23 from three-point range. Kendall Reed added 12 points, all on three-pointers.
While Andale shot 15 of 24 from the free-throw line, Collegiate was 3 of 4.
Newlin scored 17 points, 10 more than his season average.
“What a man-child,” Fiegel said of Newlin. “Could you script it better for senior night?”
Newlin added: “I’m used to (Christian) being around in (the lane). I decided to take advantage of it, do what I could, pick up the slack in his areas by rebounding, getting little putbacks, dunks. It felt like a different night. I should have decided earlier to play that way.”
Andale took a 17-16 lead early in the second quarter on a Zach Meyer basket, but over the next three minutes, Collegiate went on a 13-2 run capped by a Cody McNerney three.
Collegiate senior Jack Larsen scored 20 points, hitting four threes Collegiate senior Jacob Newlin scored 17 points and blocked four shots
Andale answered with an 8-0 run sparked by two Pete Carney three-pointers and was within four at the half.
“I thought we left a lot of opportunities on the court,” Andale coach Jeff Buchanan said. “With some one-and-ones that we had in the first half, we missed the front end each time. A handful of two-footers right there that we just had roll out.
“… Collegiate did a good job of taking advantage. They hit some big shots. The threes were falling well for them.”
Collegiate built the lead to double digits throughout the second half and led by as many as 15 midway through the fourth.
But each time, Andale had a response to keep Collegiate from completely running away with it. Andale senior Jeff Ast finished with 15 points, scoring six fourth-quarter points, while Parker Bruce scored seven of his 16 in the final period.
“I’m not saying we played bad,” Buchanan said. “We battled our tails off. We sustained many different runs that Collegiate put together.”
With each Andale answer, Collegiate did one better. Andale’s Clint Walstad scored with three minutes remaining to get within 63-54, but on Andale’s next possession, Collegiate’s Xzavaier Adams tapped the ball away to McNerney for the turnover and Newlin dunked it.
Then Larsen got a steal and scored on the break.
“We’ve got to relish every moment,” Larsen said. “In Cam’s case, you never know when it’s your last. We play our hardest for everyone on the team.”
Andale: Walstad 7, Carney 10, Ast 17, Bruce 16, Meyer 9, Cothran 2, Dagenais 2.
Collegiate: Larsen 20, McNerney 10, Newlin 17, Adams 7, Waddell 6, Reed 12