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A team that many believe can content for a Class B championship got just about all it could handle from a resilient Freeman Academy/Marion team in the third round of the Region 5B Tournament Friday night, but second-seed Canistota held off the third-seeded Bearcats in the final three minutes to claim victory.

The Hawks won 54-44 and will be one of two teams representing Region 5B in next week’s SoDak 16; the other is Viborg-Hurley, the region’s top seed and another candidate for the B title.

For Freeman Academy/Marion, the March 6 game in Tea saw a bit of everything:
• An early 8-2 lead for the Bearcats;

• An 11-4 run by the Hawks to close out the second quarter and give them a 24-17 lead;

• A Canistota advantage of 40-27 going into the fourth quarter;

• And then a frenetic run by Freeman Academy/Marion capped by three three-points on consecutive possessions by Gavin Pankratz, Connor Epp and Quincy Blue that capped a 17-5 run and cut Canistota’s lead to 45-44 with under four minutes to play …

But Tyce Ortman — who finished with a game-high 23 points on 11-for-15 shooting — and the Hawks were steady down the stretch and outscored FA/Marion 10-0 the rest of the way to hang on for the win. 

Senior Gavin Pankratz had 19 points in his final game as a Bearcat while Quincy Blue added 11.