Most teams that finish their conference season under .500 don’t make a lot of noise in the basketball playoffs, often bowing out in the first round and very rarely making it to state. For Eden Prairie, however, the Lake Conference regular season gets further and further behind them with each postseason victory, and the Eagles continued to distance themselves from the regular season by methodically defeating Woodbury 70-59 in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
State tournaments are nothing new for the Eagles, and their experience showed throughout the game. They’ve been section champions four years in a row and their starting point guard, Grant Shaeffer, quarterbacked the Eagles to two straight football state championships. Shaeffer’s calm shone through in the late goings of the game, when Woodbury clawed their way to within four points with seven minutes remaining. With the score 51-47, Shaeffer engineered an 8-1 run to push the Eagles’ lead back into double figures, then scored eight straight Eagles points as they reached the semifinals for the fourth straight year.
Woodbury had a difficult time shooting against the tough Eden Prairie defense, going 19-for-57 (33%) from the field during the game. They had an even more difficult time beyond the arc, shooting 2-for-18 (11%) from three-point range. Despite the cold shooting, however, the Royals kept the Eagles within range for most of the game, and when Diallo Powell scored with 7:52 remaining to bring the Royals within four the large Woodbury student section started to feel things turning their way. That was as close as Woodbury would get, however, as Shaeffer and the Eagles wore down the Royals.
Andre Wallace was the leading scorer for Eden Prairie, scoring 20 points on 7-for-11 field goal shooting. Shaeffer added 15 points – 12 in the second half – and picked up five assists. Jack Cottrell led the Eagles under the basket, pulling in 14 rebounds and adding a block. Alex Ihrke added 17 for Eden Prairie, who will advance to play Apple Valley on Thursday night.
For Woodbury, Diallo Powell led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Mario Franco added 17 points and nine boards. Their season comes to an end with a 25-5 record.