White Bear Lake will play in a section championship game for the first time since 2000 after edging Stillwater 52-50 in the Section 4AAAA semifinals Saturday evening.
Jack Janicki sank 21 points and set up Jeremy Kolb for the game-winning basket before a raucous, sellout crowd of 1,300 fans, rocking with excitement for both sides. Janicki also broke the Bears career scoring record (see separate article.)
The No. 2 seeded Bears (20-7) face No. 1 East Ridge (22-7) in the finals Thursday, 7 p.m., at Hastings. East Ridge beat the Bears 65-60 and 75-63 in conference play.
Kolb scored 12 points, Jack Misgen 11 (with three 3-pointers), Wyatt Hawks five and Zach Nelson three. Hawks, 6-foot-8 senior averaging 15 points, missed the previous game with an illness, and was not fully recovered but felt well enough to play.
Max Shikenjanski, Stillwater’s 2,000-point, Mr. Basketball semifinalist senior guard, closed a great career scoring 19 points. Tanner Thompson scored 18 with four 3-pointers. The Ponies finished 18-10, including a split with the Bears in conference play.
The Bears led 43-35 before missing several shots. The Ponies caught up at 43-43 and took the lead at 47-46. Janicki drove for baskets that gave the Bear leads of 48-47 and 50-49. Shikenjanski made one of two free shots after a steal, tying the score 50-50 with 1:07 left.
The Bears went into a weave and melted the clock down to 11 seconds. Coach Gregory Burke called time out.
“We drew up a play to set a back screen for me to drive for a layup,” said Janicki. “But they defended it well. I was going to shoot, but I saw my teammate was wide open and passed to him. I made the right play.”
Kolb, wide open just outside the lane, took the pass and went up without a dribble, leaning toward the rim for an underhand shot.
“I knew Jack was going to attack the basket. I got open. I wasn’t expecting it (the pass),” Kolb said. “I knew there was just a few seconds left so I had to shoot. It was a little awkward, but it went right in.”’
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