Prep boys basketball: Pioneers prove too much for Rebels
Despite hitting 11 3-pointers, the Rebels' coach estimated the team's shooting percentage was their lowest mark of the season.
DULUTH — Having been to the state football tournament 16 times, including four titles in their small central Minnesota school’s history, Pierz plays football with the best of them.
Saturday the Pioneers showed they are pretty good at basketball, too.
Peter Schommer scored a game-high 20 points, and Michael Leidenfrost added 16 as the pair of do-it-all guards paved Pierz’s path past Moose Lake-Willow River in a 78-65 Section 7AA quarterfinal win at Romano Gym Saturday, March 7.
The 5-foot, 11-inch Schommer and 6-foot Leidenfrost are the Pioneers’ bread-and-butter, or as Pierz coach Joe Kahl called them, “workhorses.”
Third-seeded Pierz (20-8) isn’t far from a championship appearance this coming week, as Saturday, they pulled away from a 34-29 halftime advantage over the second-seeded Rebels with a heavy dose of big-game experience and toughness.
“Our big guys are on the line for football,” said Schommer, noting all but several of their 19 basketball players also play on the gridiron. “Teams don’t want to come into the lane too often when they run into those guys.”
“They’re in the bright light in football and are kind of used to it,” added Kahl. “When you’re in the playoffs, it comes down to experience. And we’ve got a lot of guys with experience. Our focus was to work hard, and it paid off.”
It sure did, as the Pioneers pestered high-scoring MLWR all afternoon, holding the Rebels 18 points under their 83-point average. On the other end, Leidenfrost scored 15 second-half points and Schommer had 12 as the talented tandem took over.
Still, trailing by as many as 13 with 5:21 to go, MLWR made their way back. A pair of Michael Olson 3-pointers cut Pierz’s lead to 65-60, but when the senior twisted his left knee with several minutes to go, the Rebels’ rally faded.
“In the end, I think we out-worked them,” said Leidenfrost.
Not surprisingly, Leidenfrost and Schommer took over at the end of the game, scoring nine of the Pioneers’ final 11 points. The senior Schommer, who hasn’t missed a single game of 108 during his four-year career, has 1,416 points and is within shooting distance of breaking the school’s all-time mark set in 1975.
Leidenfrost, a junior who lives on a turkey farm, is hovering around 600 career points.
“Mike and Pete are special players,” said Kahl. “They did the same thing out here today. When they’re out there doing that, everybody else jumps on board and wants a piece of the pie. They’re great leaders and fighters.”
While Pierz is still fighting for their first-ever state appearance, MLWR’s hopes of their first trip since 2005 vanished. The Pioneers also bounced out the Rebels in last year’s postseason, as MLWR coach Wes Cummins credited Pierz’s physicality afterward.
Despite hitting 11 3-pointers, Cummins noted their shooting percentage as “not good” in what he estimated was their lowest mark of the winter. Junior Brady Watrin scored 15 points, while classmate Mason Olson had just 11 — or less than half of his 23-point average.
“Kudos to Pierz,” said Cummins. “They had a great game plan and got us out of rhythm. They played better than us.”
Still, finishing 23-5, the Rebels recorded their most wins in a decade.
“One game doesn’t erase everything we did,” said Cummins. “They’re a great group of kids.”
“It’s tough,” said a teary-eyed Michael Olson, with a bag of ice strapped to his left knee. “We had really big dreams for this year, we thought we were going to go far. But nevertheless, it was a really good season. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Moose Lake-WR 29-36—65
Pierz — Peter Schommer 20, Ryan Stuckmayer 9, Noah Cekalla 5, Brandon Stuckmayer 8, Robert Schaefer 7, Michael Leidenfrost 16, Cody Kimman 1, Jonah Prokott 12. Totals 26 17-22 78.
3-point goals — Schommer, R. Stuckmayer 3, B. Stuckmayer 2, Leidenfrost, Prokott 2.
Moose Lake-WR —Logan Orvedahl 3, Ben Dewey 10, Duane Broughton 3, Sam Dewey 2, Brady Watrin 15, Mason Olson 11, Landin Kurhajetz 7, Michael Olson 9, Carter Johnson 5. Totals 23 8-13 65.
3-point goals —Orvedahl, B. Dewey 2, Watrin 2, Ma. Olson 2, Mi. Olson 3, Johnson.