OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The third game was the charm for the Stillwater Ponies boy’s basketball team Wednesday.
After losing two conference games to White Bear Lake during the season, Stillwater won when it mattered most, defeating the Bears 56-41 in a Class 4A Section 4 quarterfinal game.
Stillwater combined a patient offense and tough defense that frustrated White Bear Lake’s three-point shooting to advance to a Section 4 semifinal game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against section top seed Roseville at East Ridge High School in Woodbury.
Senior Joe Quinn led Stillwater (21-6) with 18 points and senior Sam Lagus added 13. The Ponies also went 16-of-18 from the free throw line. White Bear Lake seniors Alex Rost and Beau Smit led the Bears’ scoring with 11 points each.
“I thought our defensive effort was there all night. Our goal was to hold them under 50,” said Ponies Coach Randy Jordan. “I thought we executed our offense. We got some good looks. It was a good team effort.
Jordan preached patience and ball movement to his team going against White Bear Lake’s zone defense. A low-scoring first half ended with Stillwater taking a 23-22 halftime lead on a Quinn layup.
There were seven lead changes early in the second half until Stillwater pulled away with a 15-2 run sparked by Lagus’ three-pointer midway through the half that gave the Ponies the lead for good at 32-30. Stillwater pushed their lead to 46-32 with 2:04 left to play and pulled away from White Bear Lake at the free-throw line.
Jordan also praised Stillwater’s defense against White Bear Lake junior Tanner Hinck, and the Bears’ offense.
“One of their leading scorers was 25 (Hinck). He got one bucket,” Jordan said. “They’re a very good three-point shooting team and I thought our defense did a real good job.”