Boys State Basketball: Cherry claims first state title with 78-40 win over Fertile-Beltrami

Boys State Basketball: Class 1A Championship – Cherry vs. Fertile-Beltrami

A special escort comprised of police and fire personnel in and around the township of Cherry was summoned to duty on Saturday, March 23. A welcome home was in order. For the first time since 1991, an Iron Range boys basketball team was bringing something back with them from the Twin Cities.

A piece of hardwood emblazed with the words: State Champion.

With an enrollment of 142 students, Cherry and its community have reason to celebrate a season of dominance. It ended with a crescendo on Championship Saturday when the top-seeded Tigers raced to a 78-40 victory over No. 3 Fertile-Beltrami in the Class A championship game at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. Rising star Noah Asuma, a sophomore guard, scored 22 points and junior guard Noah Sundquist added 15 to power the Tigers (31-2) to the first state championship for an Iron Range school since Chisholm won the Class A crown in 1991.

Cherry’s two losses this season were on consecutive days in late December against Forest Lake and Park Center, both Class AAAA schools. The Tigers finished the season on a 24-game winning streak.

“This championship is huge for Cherry and incredible for the Iron Range as a whole,” said Paul McDonald, a St. Louis County Commissioner and graduate of Chisholm High School. “St. Louis County is extremely proud of the team, coaches and all the fans. It is a special day. It’s a great day to be a Tiger.”

St. Louis County Commissioner Michael Jugovich, who represents Cherry, has an escort ready when the Tigers hit the county line. Jugovich played for Bob McDonald, Paul’s father, at Chisholm High School.

It was evident from the start that Cherry had plans to end the season on a powerful note. The Tigers raced to an 11-0 start and built that into 24-6 with 7:52 remaining in the first half. That lead would grow to 43-21 at the break. The Tigers finished their season with a 35-19 run in the second half.

Junior guard Carson Brown scored 14 points and had four assists as Cherry displayed its depth and glimpses of the future with underclassmen. Senior Isaac Asuma said farewell to his prep career with 12 points and eight assists. Next season, he will be playing on the same Williams Arena court where he and his teammates just captured a championship. Another Asuma, ninth-grade guard, Isaiah, had four points and three assists.

Fertile-Beltrami (27-7) earned a berth in the Class A championship game with a dramatic three-overtime victory over West Central Area on Friday. Senior guard Caiden Swenby, who later Saturday would be recognized as a Triple A Award recipients, had 14 points and six assists. Sophomore forward Preston Hanson added 13.

Third place

  • Nevis 64, West Central Area 51: Nevis (25-8) rebounded from its semifinal loss to Cherry with a 13-point victory over West Central Area for the third-place trophy in a game played at the Gangelhoff Center on the Concordia (St. Paul) campus. Nevis was the No. 5 seed to open the tournament.  No. 2-seeded West Central Area finished the season 28-5.

Consolation final

  • Heritage Christian Academy 63, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton 62: Junior forward Abu Tarawallie scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help send Heritage Christian to a season-ending victory over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the consolation final at Gangelhoff Center on the Concordia (St. Paul) campus. Junior forward Joshua Sokeye chipped in 18 points and three assists for the Eagles (23-8). Senior center Drew Werkman had 26 points for Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (24-9).