Senior Marcus Pocernich scored 17 points and hit a pair of well-timed 3-pointers in the second half to lead Cromwell-Wright back to the Section 5A championship game with a 69-51 victory over Nevis on Wednesday, March 13, in Brainerd.
Pocernich's final long-range bucket came with less than 5 minutes to play when he pulled up from beyond the arc and connected to give the Cardinals a 15-point lead.
Pocernich had struggled some in the team's previous game against Browerville-Eagle Valley, scoring just nine points and spending significant time on the sidelines because of foul trouble.
The Cardinals managed just 47 points against B-EV, but their offense began to click against Nevis. Three C-W players hit multiple 3-pointers, forcing the Tiger defense to extend and leave other Cardinals unguarded near the basket.
"Both games went about as I thought they would," coach Bill Pocernich said. "Browerville is a very good defensive team, so I knew we'd struggle, but they don't score as well so I knew we'd be able to hold them down. Tonight, Nevis is a harder team for us to guard because they have good balance...but they don't have the athletes to defend as well as Browerville does. I knew we'd be able to get better looks than we did against Browerville. Our kids made shots and made plays and that was it."
Senior Jaden Gronner, usually a strong outside shooter, was unable to connect from long range against Nevis, but he found other ways to contribute. The Nevis defense repeatedly left him alone by the basket when closing out on Pocernich or Isaac Shelton - who hit three from deep - and scored 10 points on easy layups.
Gronner hit two straight down the stretch when he was left unguarded by the basket to extend the Cardinal lead to 16 with about two minutes to play to extend the lead to 16 points. The scores forced Nevis to foul to stop the clock.
The Cardinal defense played well again, limiting Nevis to just 22 first half points and senior Cameron Cahoon made several important steals - including one that led to a late Gronner score.
"Cam makes effort plays, that's what he does," coach Pocernich said. "That was an effort play and that was big."
C-W is making its second straight Section 5A championship appearance, with the Cardinals falling to Hinckley-Finlayson 72-40. C-W (24-3) will face Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the Section 5A title game at 7 p.m. Friday, March 15, at Crosby-Ironton High School. BBE (17-12) edged Hinckley-Finlayson 59-56 to advance.
Nevis 22-29-51 Cromwell-Wright 30-39-69
Nevis - Matthias Worthington 8, Luke DeWulf 12, Derek Lindow 14, Eddie Kramer 3, Michael Linquist 14. Totals 17 13-17 51.
3-point goals - Worthington, Lindow 3.
Cromwell-Wright - Marcus Pocernich 17, Micah Pocernich 14, Isaac Shelton 15, Jaden Gronner 10, Gage Jones 7, Cameron Cahoon 6. Totals 25 9-14 69.
3-point goals - Ma. Pocernich 4, Mi. Pocernich 2, Shelton 3.