SLEEPY EYE - Tuesday night's playoff game between Sleepy Eye St. Mary's and Minnesota Valley Lutheran was one for the ages.
St. Mary's erased a nine-point deficit in the last 4 minutes, but ultimately it was MVL that came out on top with an exciting 62-61 upset victory in a Section 2A, North Subsection quarterfinal game.
MVL controlled the entire first 32 minutes of the game and got after it from the start. Chad Lease had the hot hand early, scoring eight quick points and getting the Chargers a quick 14-4 lead.
From there the Chargers' lead swelled to as much as 17 points before the half ended with MVL leading 40-26. Lease led the way with 17 at the break.
"I just came in with good focus," Lease said. "The team came in with good focus and we were able to keep it going."
St. Mary's shot just 4-of-19 from behind the arc in the first half, a big reason why it scored just 26 points.
"We got some good looks but we didn't shoot that well," St. Mary's coach Tim Milliard said. "MVL was more active, rebounded better and played with more energy."
The first 15 minutes of the second half saw the Knights switch to a man-to-man defense, which slowed Lease and the Chargers.
Even with the struggles for MVL, the lead hovered around 10 for the majority of the time.
With a little more than 4 minutes left, David Surprenant came to the Knights' rescue, giving them a jolt of scoring they desperately needed. The junior used his strength to bully down the lane for a pair of three-point plays, the latter tying the contest at 57-57 apiece with just more than a minute to play.
MVL answered the bell with a free throw from Lease and a defensive rebound off of a missed shot from John Brandl.
The Chargers quickly rebounded and got the ball up court for a layup from Eric Westphal off a great dish from Jacob Hoffman.
After a failed attempt to score by St. Mary's, Josh Wong hit one free throw to put MVL up one with 11 seconds left.
Again it was Surprenant with the answer, this time from downtown to make it a one-point game when Wong again went to the line. Wong hit one, giving St. Mary's a chance.
Brandl took the inbounds pass and got all the way to the rim, where he was fouled with 1 second left. On the play, Brandl appeared to hurt his elbow and because of an injury timeout, was not allowed to shoot the free throws.
Nick DeMaris took the shots for the Knights, but after his first attempt rattled out, the Chargers had sealed the win, 62-61.
"We hung in there and finally made a few shots," Milliard said. "It was good that we had a chance to win but I thought MVL really deserved to win overall."
Lease led the way for MVL with 20 points.
"This [win] is sweet," Lease said. "It's just great to keep this going."
St. Mary's was led by Surprenant with 17 points. Brandl added 14 points and Payton Adams scored 11.
St. Mary's ends its season 14-9.
MVL has now won four games in a row as it moves on to the next round of the tournament. MVL will play No. 2-seeded Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity at 8 p.m. Friday at Le Sueur.
"We have a lot of momentum going, so let's just keep the winning going," Lease said.