by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Look who’s one game away from a state tournament — the Zimmerman Thunder.
The boys basketball team of the eight-year-old school that’s never produced a state team qualifier will have a shot Friday night after crushing St. Cloud Cathedral 92-70 on Tuesday in the Section 5AA north sub finals.
“This is where we’ve expected to be ever since the first game of the season,” said sophomore Jake Wilson, who delivered 16 points off the bench in the game at St. Michael-Albertville.
Blake Ehley scored 20 points, Wilson and Caleb Lunning 16 each, Brandon Giese 11 and Adam Fordahl 8 as the Thunder (21-8) advanced to the 5AA finals against Watertown-Mayer (20-9).
The Thunder were almost perfect in the first half, racing to a 56-36 lead. A small, quick team with two platoons of depth, their ball movement, field goal shooting and rebounding — yes even rebounding — were so sharp that a good Cathedral team (18-10) was never really in the game. Shaky free throw shooting (16-for-30) by the Thunder was not a problem.
“That was as good a first half as we have played,” said coach Ben Kvidt. “Everything we threw up there went in. Our defense was good, we were aggressive, and we rebounded a lot better than we’ve been.”
The 56-point half was achieved even though season scoring leader Giese had just 4 points. Ehley, the second-leading scorer, had 15 already, Lunning 11 and Wilson 10.
“That’s what I love about this team,” said Kvidt. “On any given night you never know who it’s going to be.”
Reflected Ehley: “Our start was incredible. You start like that and you should win the ballgame.”
The Thunder are usually out-rebounded even when they win, but on this night owned a 36-25 edge, led by Ethan Lunning with six, as 11 different players snagged at least one.
Junior guard Bjorn Bjorklund scored 23 for Cathedral, 18 in the first half. Sophomore guard Joseph Burt was next with 16. The Crusaders have just one senior, their 6-7 center Mike Reisdorf, who fouled out with 5 points.
The Thunder have just two seniors, and although Giese and Ehley are their best players, the juniors and sophs scored 61 points in this game.
“Our future is bright,” Ehley grinned.
Wilson, a willowy 6-foot-4 forward, was the football team’s starting quarterback before injuring his knee in the second game and missing the rest of the season. The basketball season is making up for that.
“This was my best game,” said Wilson, “Everything was going good tonight.”
The Thunder have pummeled three straight section foes — Eden Valley-Watkings 87-42, Kimball Area 60-52 and now Cathedral.
Ehley followed up his 23-point game against Kimball with 20 against Cathedral.
“I’ve been cutting to the hoop and my teammates have been finding me open,” said the 6-foot-1 senior, a three-year starter. ” I’ve had a lot of good looks.”
Zimmerman has previously come closest to “state” on ball diamonds as the baseball team was section runner-up last year and the softball team placed third in the section in 2009.
In boys basketball, this marks the first time Zimmerman has won more than one game in post-season. The win over Cathedral earned them their first post-season trophy for the “sub” title.
Watertown-Mayer was a 68-48 winner over Litchfield for the south sub trophy.
Their game at 6:30 p.m. Friday will mark another “first” for the Z-Men, playing in a big college gym.
“I am so excited about going to play at St. Cloud State,” said Ehley. “I’ve never even been to a game there. Coach says it’s a great place.”
Zimmerman 92, St. Cloud Cathedral 70
SC Cathedral …… 36 34 — 70
Zimmerman …….. 56 36 — 92
St. Cloud Cathedral — Nick Schmit 3, Bjorn Bjorklund 23 (6 reb), Mike Reisdorf 5, Joseph Burt 16, Scottie Rucks 8 (8 reb), Brady Schmit 10, Mike Manthey 4, Steven Bestgen 1 …. Team totals: 19-29 free shots, 25 rebounds, 22 fouls
Zimmerman — Caleb Lunning 16, Adam Fordahl 8, Brandon Giese 11 (5 ast, 4 reb, 2 stl), Ethan Lunning 2 (6 reb, 3 ast), Nate Christensen 7, Gavin Doppler 4 (5 reb), Blake Ehley 20 (5 reb), Kyle Connelly 5, Jake Wilson 16 (4 reb), Rashuad Buehler 2 … Team totals: 16-30 free shots, 36 rebounds, 24 fouls