Buffalo lost their best player in the first half, but they weren’t about to lose the game in second. The Bison survived a physical, foul filled, contentious game to defeat Lakeville South 50-48 in the Class 4A Semifinals.
Buffalo was up 12-9 when Josh Ortmann, the school’s all-time leading scorer, hit the floor in pain after stepping on a Lakeville player’s foot. He twisted up his left ankle and had to be helped off the court. He was done, and would only return later on to watch from a wheelchair.
“We knew it would be a blow because he’s such a tremendous player, but we also knew that with him out we needed to step up,” said Karl Olson, who would answer the call by knocking down the eventual game winner.
Ortmann’s injury did rattle the Bison, but they still managed to take a 21-17 lead into the locker room. Still, coach Nicholas Guida had to do his Knute Rockne impersonation.
“What would Josh want right now?” coach Guida asked his guys at the half. “I said, ‘Let’s think about that, let’s not have that thing in the back of our minds about Josh, let’s think about what’s going on right now, and let’s get this thing done.’”
A see-saw second half came down to the final minute, with Buffalo trailing 46-45, but with the ball. They got the ball to an open Olson in the left corner, and he dropped in the three with :29 left. This game, and this moment left the coach a little choked up afterwards.
“To step out there and knock down the biggest shot of his career, up to now, it’s…” is all Guida could say through a crackling voice, with tears in his eyes.
This was a rough game, with bodies falling more than shots during some stretches. Lakeville South got whistled for 25 fouls, and had three players foul out. Cougars coach Larry Thompson had a lot of these players on his football team this year, and Lakeville looked, and played, more physical. Guida planned on this type of game coming in and knew it would be a challenge
“You can’t fall into that trap about backing down from that [the physical play], and there were times we certainly did that,” he said. “But I think, in the big picture of things we fought through those moments, we kept our poise and confidence in what we were doing.”
Ortmann scored eight points before getting hurt. Eric Olson and Darrin Olmscheid lead the Bison with 11 points each, and they will most likely face the winner between Robbinsdale Armstrong and Apple Valley without Ortmann. But they will be far from short handed. Buffalo fans shuffled off to the Target Center, outnumbering Lakeville fans at least four to one, and really rockin’ the joint.
“I was so proud of all our fans tonight,” said Guida. “I think they saw a ball game they’ll never forget.”
They saw a game that got their team back into the state title game for the first time since 1931… the Bison’s last trip to the state tourney.