By JOHN MILLEA, Star Tribune
Last update: March 21, 2009 - 2:09 AM
Osseo's strategy against Cooper in Friday night's Class 4A, Section 5 championship game sounded like it came directly from the state troopers: Keep 'em under 55.
The Orioles indeed kept Cooper's offense in check and took advantage of the Hawks' poor free-throw shooting en route to a 58-51 victory in Rogers and a berth in the boys' basketball state tournament next week.
Osseo led by 16 points with less than 12 minutes to play, but Cooper went on a 23-11 run -- sparked by 14 points from Kenquane Brown -- to pull within four with 1:38 remaining. But the Orioles, who didn't make a field goal in the final 3:22, closed out the victory by hitting seven of 10 foul shots. For the game, Osseo made 11 of 14 free throws and Cooper went 9-for-20.
"We knew we had a chance if we held Cooper under 55," said Osseo coach Tim Theisen. "They average 83, and we knew we could score some points."
Gophers signee Rodney Williams didn't score for Cooper (27-2) until the final minute of the first half and finished with six points. Osseo's Sam Dower, a 6-9 forward who has signed with Gonzaga, led the Orioles (27-2) with 18 points, and Nick Djerf added 16. Brown led Cooper with 22 points, and Joe Bright had 19.
Osseo, champion of the Northwest Suburban Conference, lost only to Henry Sibley and Maple Grove during the regular season and will take a 14-game winning streak into the state tournament. The Orioles' last trip to state was in 2003.
The brackets for the 4A and 3A state tournaments will be announced Sunday. The top four teams will be seeded, with their quarterfinal opponents determined by blind draw. The tournament will begin Wednesday.