Things looked grim for Cromwell-Wright late in their Section 5A quarterfinal against Browerville-Eagle Valley on Monday, March 11, in Brainerd.
The team's 10-point lead had shrunk to one point with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game when Micah Pocernich stepped to the free-throw line. The high-scoring junior sank four free throws over the final 90 seconds to seal a 47-42 win over the Tigers.
Ironically, Micah Pocernich had struggled scoring throughout the game, with foul trouble forcing him into an unfamiliar point guard role.
"(Micah) didn't have a very good game," Coach Bill Pocernich said. "They did a good job defensively on him and our foul trouble was with Marcus (Pocernich). Marcus was in foul trouble most of the night, so Micah had to play the point a lot and that affected his scoring.
"In the last two minutes, we had missed a couple free throws right before that," the coach said. "We got it to Micah, who is our best free-throw shooter, and he came through and then everybody did a good job defensively on the boards down the stretch."
Pocernich finished the game with 12 points. The Cardinals have won 13 straight since a loss to Esko on Jan. 25.
Coach Pocernich said his team started the game well and built a small lead, but Markus Pocernich's foul trouble allowed Browerville to close the game to 22-21 at halftime. After allowing the Tigers the first basket of the second half, C-W went on a run to build a 10-point lead before foul trouble again sidelined the elder Pocernich.
Browerville would close the gap to one point before Micah Pocernich found his stroke from the free throw line and secured the win for the Cardinals.
"I thought it was a struggle for us, really, on both ends of the floor," Coach Pocernich said. "Obviously, we defended pretty well, holding them to 41, but we just couldn't get any kind of a rhythm going. It seemed like everything was a struggle for us but it was one of those where you figure out a way to win and move on."
C-W will play Nevis in the Section 5A semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at Brainerd High School. Nevis eliminated Pine River-Backus 54-52 in the game immediately following the Cardinals' game. C-W previously beat Nevis 67-55 on Feb. 22 at home.
Browerville-Eagle Valley - Zak Irsfeld 17, Brady Emery 7, Chris Ogle 6, 6, John Schueller 7, Brian Kunerth 5. Totals 14 11-17 42.
3-point goals - Irsfeld 2, Emery.
Cromwell-Wright - Marcus Pocernich 9, Drew Libbon 2, Micah Pocernich 12, Isaac Shelton 6, Jaden Gronner 6, Gage Jones 4, Cameron Cahoon 8. 14 8-11 47.
3-point goals - Ma. Pocernich 3, Mi. Pocernich, Shelton 2, Gronner 2.