Cornerstone Christian knew it came in with a significant height advantage against Maplewood in a district semifinal Feb. 27. Their control of the glass meant second-chance looks aplenty.
Five players finished with double-digit points while four also had five or more rebounds as the Patriots downed the Rockets, 78-28, and advanced to the Grand Valley District final.
There they will play Badger or Vienna Mathews on March 3 at 7 p.m.
It took a quarter for Quinn Kwasniak to find his way into the scorebook, and with Carter Armstrong out with an injury, Cornerstone turned to Jeremiah Hendrix to handle the early scoring duties.
“It was a great team win today,” Hendrix said. “We all had to come together and try to get a win. There were big-time shots from all of the guys, Deshaun stepped up in a big way and we all were happy with how we adjusted today.”
Quinn led the way with 20 points, while Deshaun Vaden (12), DJ Niles (11) and Owen Pugh (10) all finished in double figures as well. Vaden also finished with a double-double with 11 rebounds.
While he normally comes off the bench and plays significant minutes, Vaden slipped into the starting lineup well as he made an immediate impact on the boards. Several possessions saw him corral misses and turned them into second- and third-chance looks from the post.
Vaden has been like a sponge learning under Niles, who had nine boards in the game as well. He’s seen that translate all season and play a crucial role in the district semifinal win.
“Coming into the program, it’s amazing to see what he brings to the program,” Vaden said. “He pays attention to details, and my goal is to come in and learn from him. I try to go up and get boards, bring energy, whatever I need to do to win. I try to come in and dominate as much as possible and use my length to my advantage no matter who we’re playing.”
Early the tempo played to the favor of the Rockets, as they found a way to slow down Cornerstone’s pace of play. Maplewood had frequent ball movement and several different sets to try and get the best look possible.
There were flashes of Cornerstone establishing the pace they wanted early off of Maplewood turnovers but it took time to get the tempo right. After the half however, Coach Babe Kwasniak saw his team adjust to the challenge and got back to the fast pace to which they were accustomed.
“I think that they were very vigilant to making sure that Quinn didn’t beat them,” Kwasniak said. “They did that, but that’s something that we have to accept and we did that. Other guys stepped up and were making layups like they were playing H-O-R-S-E.”
Once Cornerstone had the offense rolling, the Rockets had no answer. Consistent fresh bodies helped Cornerstone’s cause as well as they saw everyone find their way onto the floor that was dressed.
Adam Sopenski saw that reflect in the pace of the game. Once Cornerstone started to get the game in transition and use the numbers, he saw them start to get more and more guys into the game.
“They tried slowing us down, but our bigs really stepped up to prevent that,” Soperiski said. “Even if they slowed us down, we’re still going to do what we need to do to get wins. That’s what wins us games.”
Maplewood was paced by Alex Donaldson with 10 points.