Moose Lake Willow River boys' basketball team played their first Section 7AA playoff game at home against Pillager. Pillager had a winning record of 16-11 and were ranked at 65 in the Minnesota state standings. Out of the 125 Class 7AA schools in the state of Minnesota, MLWR was ranked number twenty. The Rebels started out fast and strong, leading at halftime 50-26. They had only three players scoring their eight three-point shots, which is a very low number for MLWR. The Rebels came out on top, defeating the Huskies 75-54.
Mason Olson scored 36 points, Brady Watrin had 22, Logan Orvedahl eight, Michael Olson five, and Ben Dewey four. From three-point land, Mason Olson had five, Orvedahl two, and Michael Olson one.
Schools are placed in sections based on the number of students they have in grades 9-12. MLWR has 294 students, Pillager 272 students and Pierz has 592. Other teams in our section are Esko with 354, Aitkin 566, Proctor 476, Pequot Lakes 455, Virginia 374, Duluth Marshall 282, Mesabi-East 228, Eveleth-Gilbert 266, , Crosby-Ironton 290, International Falls 335, Greenway 338, and Two Harbors 327. MLWR is one of the smaller schools in Section 7AA.
The Rebels' second playoff game was Saturday morning, March 7. They took on Pierz, who had defeated Crosby-Ironton 81-66 to get into the second round and they are the biggest school in the section. They had a record of 20-8 and were ranked 29th in the state. The game started off slow. At the half, Pierz led 34-29. Thirty-nine fouls were called in the game. Pierz shot 22 free-throws, sinking 16. The Rebels shot 13 making eight. Late in the game MLWR trailed by only two baskets, but then the game got away from them and they had to keep fouling to get the ball back. Pierz won 78-65. MLWR led in steals with ten. Watrin had three, Carter Johnson and Duane Broughton had two and Sam Dewey, Philip Sheetz, and Michael Olson each had one. The Rebels' three-point shot selection was at a low 28 percent compared to the Pierz Pioneers' at 41 percent.
Scoring for the Rebels were Brady Watrin with 15, Mason Olson with 11, Ben Dewey 10, Michael Olson 9, Landin Kurhajetz seven, Carter Johnson five, Broughton and Orvedahl each with three, and Sam Dewey two. Scoring three-point shots were Michael Olson with three, Ben Dewey, Brady Watrin and Mason Olson with two each, Orvedahl and Carter Johnson each with one.
The Rebels had a great season, finishing their season with 23 wins and only five losses and ranked twentieth in the state.
The crowds were entertained by their long-range shooting skills and success (and the creative attire of the managers). Unless a team is the state champion, their season always end in bitter-sweet defeat. The Rebels graduate Ben Dewey, Michael Olson, managers Henrick Hanson and Nate Jungers. After the game out in the entry way, a senior guard from Pierz, Peter Schommer, told the MLWR players, "You'll be back next year." Thanks to the coaches, Wes Cummins, Paul Dewey, Will Carlson, and Paul Olson. Congratulations on a great season!