Coaches and players hate the term moral victory, but it certainly felt like the New Life Eagles earned one Tuesday night.
Minnehaha Academy, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A and fresh off a win over perennial 4A power Hopkins, won the battle over the Eagles 59-54. But the visiting Redhawks had to fight for every point, every rebound and every loose ball they gained.
“We battled, and that’s what you want to see,” New Life Academy head coach Doug Linton said. “I have to keep reminding ourselves it’s only game six. It’s hard in game six to say we’re going to be in top season form and handle those pressures. This was our first real test, and I thought we competed well.
“We played hard,” Linton continued. “We have some things to clean up; we’ve got to get a little better at handling that (pressure) and executing when we need to. I thought we were a little rushed at times. That’s why you have a long season.”
A tight game from start to finish, New Life Academy closed to within two points with less than a minute remaining before the Redhawks were able to secure the victory.
Prince Aligbe of Minnehaha scored to make it a 55-51 lead with 27 seconds left, and after an Eagles miss, Terry Lockett of the Redhawks made two free throws for a 57-51 lead.
Senior guard Zach Miller scored to cut the deficit to 57-53, but just 10 seconds remained in the game.
Minnehaha Academy improved to 6-3 in the season.
It was the first loss of the season for New Life Academy, who dipped to 5-1.
Minnehaha led 34-28 at the half, but the Redhawks couldn’t shake the Eagles and never led by more than seven.
Minnehaha Academy’s rugged schedule made a difference in this one. The Redhawks came in having played Hopkins – ranked No. 6 in Class 4A -- Minneapolis North, top-ranked in Class 1A, a good St. Louis Park team and an undefeated Totino-Grace squad.
New Life Academy’s schedule, by contrast, hasn’t been nearly as challenging.
“They’re a great team,” Linton said of the Redhawks. “So we know we can compete. If we can get better, I hope we see them again. If we play that hard every night, we’re in good shape.”
Senior guard Chris Ketema led the Eagles with 17 points, and his three-point field goal keyed New Life’s surge in the game’s final minutes. Ketema’s long jumper cut Minnehaha’s lead to 53-49 with about a minute and a half left.
Kyle Kaemingk had 16 points for the Eagles and Adam Busch had 11.
Ninth-grade star-in-the-making Terry Lockett buried 28 points to lead Minnehaha. Jalen Suggs, another stellar freshman, added 13.
The Eagles are next scheduled to host PACT Charter School (0-8) Thursday.