It was a less-than-perfect game for the Aquinas High School boys basketball team, which also made it a great test.
The Blugolds passed this one with an inspired fourth quarter, wearing down Prescott for a 49-38 win Saturday in a WIAA Division 3 regional final in front of about 900 people at the Reinhart Athletic Complex.
Fourth-ranked Aquinas (22-2) will play Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau (20-4) in a sectional semifinal Thursday at Osseo-Fairchild High School.
The Blugolds beat the Red Hawks 57-54 Dec. 28 at the Aquinas Holiday Classic.
Aquinas coach Rick Schneider fully expects another close game, which is why he was happy with the way his team closed out the Cardinals.
“I think it took us a while to get going,” Schneider said. “Prescott plays hard, we played them last year and they’re competitive. We were really tight and you could tell but in the second half that started to change when our defense led to some offense.”
With the Blugolds missing 3-pointers, layups and everything in between in the first half, Prescott (16-7) grabbed a 22-19 lead.
Cardinals guard Michael Brookshaw heaved a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the second quarter, sending his team into the locker room with a shot of momentum.
The early third quarter went back-and-forth, and with Aquinas’ 6-foot-7 starting forward Parker Weber out after taking an elbow to the face and defensive specialist Eldred Jones in foul trouble, it looked like Prescott would take it down to the wire.
The Blugolds were clinging to a 31-30 lead early in the fourth quarter when forward Carson Schneider provided his team with a game-changing play.
Schneider, a senior forward, forced a steal as the Cardinals were setting up their offense, and took it the other way for a layup and free throw.
It gave Aquinas a 34-30 lead at the 5 minute, 58 second mark, and after another Prescott turnover, Blugolds point guard Bronson Koenig (17 points) hit a 3-pointer.
Aquinas’ aggressive defense forced 21 turnovers.
“Everybody’s got a role on this team and mine’s more to get rebounds and bring that spark,” Carson Schneider said. “Any time you’re in those situations where it’s a one- or two- point game, one play that goes your way can really help in the long run.”
The Blugolds forced four more turnovers in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter, converting with baskets by Koenig and Michael Conway (18 points, eight rebounds) to end the game on a 10-2 run.
“It was good to get this one under our belt,” Conway said. “We faced some adversity; our shots weren’t dropping and we had to fight back pretty hard. That’s what you’re going to need.”