Boys' Basketball: Eagles season ends in section upset

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The New Life Academy boys' basketball team saw its season come to a shocking end in a 57-54 upset loss to St. Agnes on Saturday.

Playing without starting guard Chris Ketema and key reserve Sam LeVoir, the second-seeded Eagles fell in the Class 2A, Section 4 quarterfinals at home to sixth-seeded St. Agnes. Ketema rolled his ankle in practice and cracked a bone in his ankle. LeVoir jammed his thumb in the first half of Saturday's game and broke a bone.

The loss of Ketema —the team's second-leading scorer, rebounder and assist man—was simply too much for the Eagles to overcome.

"Not the way we planned it," New Life Academy head coach Doug Linton said. "I thought our other guys stepped up with a couple of injuries. It was tough losing a couple of key guys like Chris and Sam. Things happen. Somebody told me this week that bad things will happen, what are you going to do about them? How do you handle them? I thought our team handled it pretty well. We had some guys who hadn't played a lot step up and gave us some great minutes."

St. Agnes took a 57-54 lead with 20 seconds left on two free throws. New Life came down after a timeout and set up for a tying three, but senior guard Jaxson Kavanagh's shot was off the mark. St. Agnes rebounded and was able to run out the clock.

New Life ended with a 24-4 record. The eight seniors on this year's team went 48-9 the last two seasons.

"It was an amazing group of young men," Linton said. "I said, they're going to do some amazing things with what's coming for them. Each one of them brought so many different qualities to this team. I'm proud of each one of these kids, and it's hard to see them go away now."

St. Agnes (14-13) advanced to play Minneapolis Roosevelt (19-8) Tuesday at St. Paul Washington High School in a section semifinal game. Top-seeded Minnehaha Academy will meet fourth-seeded St. Croix Lutheran in the other semifinal.

New Life had defeated St. Agnes 70-53 during the regular season, but this was a competitive game from start to finish.

With Ketema out, St. Agnes concentrated on limiting New Life star forward Kyle Kaemingk.

"They pretty much put a box and one on him and they tried to make somebody else beat them," Linton said. "And the other guys tried and got looks we just didn't make them. That's when you need a guy like Chris Ketema or Sam that can knock down shots and make plays for you."

New Life Academy pulled away from a 15-16 deficit to lead 28-20 at halftime. St. Agnes went on an 11-4 run midway through the second half to take a 41-39 lead with 8:44 remaining. The rest of the game was a battle.

It didn't help the Eagles when Kaemingk was called for his fourth foul with 8:21 left and had to go to the bench.

Kavanaugh hit back-to-back baskets to give the Eagles leads of 52-50 and 54-52 with 1:45 to play.

Marcus Johnson of St. Agnes drained a 3-point shot with 1:06 left to put the Cadets back on top 55-54. New Life Academy turned the ball over, and then both teams missed shots. St. Agnes went up by three on two free throws with 20 seconds left.