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The Deer River High School boys basketball team earned its first-ever state tournament berth when it defeated Nashwauk-Keewatin on Friday in the Section 7A championship game in Nashwauk. Above, jubilant Deer River players and coaches celebrate the title.

NASHWAUK — Trailing by four at the half, Nashwauk-Keewatin High School boys basketball coach Kyle Giorgi knew the start of the second half was going to be crucial.

As it turned out it was as Deer River hit five 3-pointers in a row en route to a 60-42 Section 7A title-game victory over the Spartans Friday.

It was a disappointing end for Nashwauk-Keewatin, who were without two starters for the second-straight game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Giorgi said. “Every single one of them, the resiliency they showed, not only this whole season with the adversity we had to face, but this last week has been an emotional roller coaster.

“There’s been a number of unfortunate events. Things didn’t necessarily go our way, but every single of these boys left it out on the court., As a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”

After an early Giorgi time out to settle down his team, Nashwauk-Keewatin got out to a 6-0 lead, then the game turned into a see-saw affair.

The lead changed hands eight times until the score was tied 16-16 with 6:43 to play in the first half.

From that point on, the Warriors outscored Nashwauk-Keewatin 9-6 to take a 25-22 lead at halftime.

That’s when the avalanche of threes began.

Ty Morrison came out and hit three-straight 3-pointers to ignite Deer River in the second half.

Deer River actually hit five 3-pointers in a row, and six of their next eighth baskets were Warrior 3-pointers.

The Spartans started trading two-points for three-points and found themselves down by 10, 40-30 with 12:53 to play in the game.

“We knew that was going to be a big part of it,” Giorgi said. “They didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half. We talked about how the first few minutes of the second half were going to be important.

“Unfortunately for us, Morrison hit three-straight threes. They took the momentum. We battled back. We hung tight, but it wasn’t quite enough.”

Deer River made it 49-37 with 8:30 to play, then it was 51-40 with 5:12 remaining.

The Warriors would outscore the Spartans 11-5 down the stretch to earn the title.

“It was a heck of a year,” Giorgi said. “It was an amazing year. What a fun bunch of guys to coach and be around. They do everything you ask. It’s a difficult ending for us, but I couldn’t be more proud of them and the efforts they’ve given.

“My hats go off to them.”

Nashwauk-Keewatin was led by Daniel Clusiau and Keegan Warmuth with 10 points apiece.

Deer River got 24 from Morrison and 21 from Mikhail Wakonabo.

DR 25 35 — 60

NK 22 20 — 42

Deer River: Samuel Rahier 6, Blake Fox 4, Mikhail Wakonabo 21, Dave McClellan 5, Tyn Morrison 24.

Nashwauk-Keewatin: Gaige Waldvogel 8, Daniel Clusiau 10, Justice Rebrovich 6, Daylan White 5, Keegan Warmuth 10, Jack Lorenz 8.

Total Fouls: Deer River 11; Nashwauk-Keewatin 16; Fouled Out: None; Free Throws: Deer River 10-15; Nashwauk-Keewatin 5-6; 3-pointers: Rahier 2, Wakonabo 3, Morrison 3, Waldvogel, Clusiau 2.

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