MINNEAPOLIS - For just about every team making its Williams Arena debut, there's an expected adjustment period as shooters acclimate to the spacious backdrop.
It's an especially dangerous proposition if your offense relies heavily on the 3-point shot, which Cromwell-Wright experienced firsthand this afternoon. Shooting woes eventually caught up to the Cardinals in a 49-39 loss to Ada-Borup in a Class A boys basketball state tournament quarterfinal.
But their coach, Bill Pocernich, said it had less to do with the venue than the closing speed of the Cougars.
"I think that's a little bit overblown," Pocernich said of the backdrop theory. "I think the reason kids don't shoot as well down here is because the defenses are a lot better."
The Cardinals' included.
The stingiest defense in Class A allowed Cromwell-Wright to throw a scare at second-seeded Ada-Borup (29-1). Indeed, one of Micah Pocernich's raindrop 3-pointers boosted the Cardinals' lead to 29-22 early in the second half, but inconsistency from the outside - combined with the shot-altering presence inside of Ada-Borup's strapping 6-foot-8 junior, Mason Miller - stymied the Section 5A champs down the stretch.
Unseeded Cromwell-Wright (25-4), which entered averaging more than 22 long-range attempts, had its winning streak snapped at 15 games. The Cardinals were connecting from beyond the arc at a 37-percent clip, but they knocked down just 6 of 24 tries Thursday.
"You don't get any clean looks, and if you do you have someone running at you," said Micah Pocernich, a junior and the team's leading scorer.
Minutes after Micah was done being interviewed, his brother, Cromwell-Wright senior point guard Marcus Pocernich, threw an arm around his shoulder (they're the coach's sons). The Cardinals, whose Jaden Gronner and Cameron Cahoon scored 10 points apiece, had nothing to be ashamed of.
Despite being at state for the first time since 1996, they looked like Barn regulars. A Gronner 3 gave Cromwell-Wright a 9-2 lead early on, eliciting standing approval from their red-wearing fans, which must have counted every resident in both Cromwell and Wright.
"We got most of our jitters out during warmups," said Cahoon, a post who plays much bigger than his 6-foot height would suggest.
Cahoon was tasked with guarding Miller for much of the afternoon, giving up 8 inches in the process. Miller, a coveted NCAA Division I football recruit, finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. He did most of his damage later in both halves.
"They were active," Ada-Borup coach Trevor Stewart said. "Obviously a good team, and we knew they had good defenders. But I also thought we were tentative at times. We just didn't look inside to Mason at all early on."
Trailing 31-25, the Cougars showed precisely how they've lost just one game all winter, closing on a 24-8 run to reach today's semifinals.
Cromwell-Wright plays Westbrook-Walnut Grove in a consolation-round game at noon.
Cromwell-Wright - Marcus Pocernich 8, Micah Pocernich 9, Jaden Gronner 10, Cameron Cahoon 10, Gage Jones 2. Totals 14 5-8 39.
3-point goals - Mi. Pocernich 3, Gronner 2, Cahoon.
Ada-Borup - Colby Stevenson 1, Jared Brainard 9, Preston Gwin 14, Mason Miller 19, Verdis Barber 6. Totals 18 11-17 49.
3-point goals - Gwin 2.