HOLIDAY CLASSIC BASKETBALL: Wolverines rally, win third place
WORTHINGTON - Rallying from a trio of 13-point deficits, the exceptionally well-balanced Sibley East Wolverines finished on an impressive 27-7 run over the final eight minutes Friday and claimed third-place honors in the 15th annual Daily Globe-Trojan Classic high school boys' basketball tournament with an 85-72 victory over Mankato West.
Sibley East, which represents the communities of Gaylord, Arlington and Green Isle and plays in the Minnesota River Conference, trailed 41-28 with 2:21 remaining in the first half and - after closing to within six points by intermission - fell behind by margins of 54-41 and 56-43 early in the second half.
But, starting with a putback basket by 6-10 senior center Max Grabow at the 14:15 mark, the Wolverines began their rally.
Grabow, who scored just nine points Thursday night in SE's 93-70 loss to Worthington in the semifinals, became increasingly active as Friday's game progressed.
"I took him out for awhile," explained third-year Wolverines' head coach Mike Feterl. "While Max was on the bench, I just told him to relax, go back in there and 'play big' - which he did and really helped us turn things around."
Indeed. After scoring only five points in an exciting first half of action, Grabow finished Friday's contest with 19 points, 17 rebounds and nine blocks - including two stuffs in a row within a span of six seconds on one of West's possessions just inside the 12-minute mark, helping change the game's momentum.
A nifty drive by Brody Rodning and a turn around jumper by Sam Harrison had sliced the Scarlets' lead to 56-49.
After MW's Travon Jones completed a fastbreak, another rebound bucket by Grabow returned the margin to seven.
On the next sequence, Grabow blocked a pair of Scarlet shot attempts and then scored down low (on a pass from Harrison) to trim the lead to five (58-53) with 10:48 remaining.
A bit later, Grabow blocked another shot as the Wolverines continued to build momentum.
A steal and a basket by Carter Burmeister finally ended a more than 2-minute scoring lull for the Scarlets, but SE's Steve Haefs, a 6-2 senior marksman, fired in his third 3-pointer of the game and the score was 60-56 with 9:41 on the clock.
A spinning putback by Grabow 18 seconds later sliced the gap to two, capping a 15-4 surge by the Wolverines.
West's Austin Majeskie (21 points, eight rebounds) silenced the rally briefly with a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the right corner and the Scarlets followed that with a slick pass from Majeskie to freshman sensation Jake Dale (21 points - 15 in the first half, eight rebounds), giving MW a 65-58 edge with 8:07 to play.
Rodning (15 points, six assists) fed Grabow for a hoop, which started the Wolverines' game-winning rally and then sank a pair of free throws, trimming the lead to three.
Another putback basket by Grabow sliced the lead to one at the 7:02 mark.
Wolverines take lead on Haefs' fourth 3-pointer
Sibley East then took its first lead - since holding an early 12-7 advantage four minutes into the first half - when Haefs caught a pass from Rodning and knocked down his fourth trey of the game, giving the Wolverines a 67-65 edge.
Two free throws by Haefs (16 points) increased the lead to 69-65 before Majeskie took an extra pass from Alex Knutson (five assists) to bring West within one by sinking another 3-pointer from the right corner.
But, the Wolverines were not to be denied.
Having effectively switched defenses several times during the contest, Feterl - a native of Salem, S.D. who was coached in his high school basketball career by Worthington's Rob Grady - put his team into a version of the Trojans' "flex" offense, which resulted in a basket from the right elbow by 6-6 senior Tyler Bates and a 71-68 lead.
Two more free throws by Haefs and one by Zac Weber built the lead to six with 3:48 to play.
Bates, who had scored seven points for the Wolverines in the game's first three minutes, scored inside for an eight-point SE lead, capping a 16-3 run for his team.
A putback by Majeskie at the 2:25 mark gave the Scarlets hope, but East countered with four consecutive free throws - two each by Rodning and Grabow to claim a 10-point lead (80-70) with 2:11 left.
Later, a backdoor basket by Bates (team-high 20 points) on an assist from Grabow and another slicing drive by Bates - 17 seconds apart - extended the lead to 84-70 with 1:18 on the clock.
A bank shot by Majeskie was offset by a free throw from Harrison (11 points Friday, 39 for the tournament) and East had effectively turned a 13-point deficit into a 13-point win.
"This was a big win for us," summed up Feterl. "When our talented individual players put it together, show some passion for the game, move the ball and play as a team - we are pretty good."
West head coach Tom Boone, a five-time champion (2004-2008) in the Trojan Classic, agreed with Feterl.
"Sibley East did a good job with its offensive balance and changing defenses," he said. "We created some good things in transition. But we couldn't get enough defensive stops or make many shots late in the game."
Dale's back-to-the-basket moves
spark Scarlets during first half
After Sibley East roared out of the gate with a top-of-the-key 3-pointer by Haefs and two perimeter baskets by Bates for a quick 7-0 lead, Mankato West responded with a 13-5 surge of its own to takes its first lead (13-12) five minutes in.
A 3-pointer by Knutson (assist Ryan Schlichte) capped that early MW rally and Jones sank a pair of free throws for a 15-12 edge.
Bates tied the game at 15-all with his only 3-pointer of the game, but back-to-back coast-to-coast drives off of defensive rebounds by Jones (11 points) and Majeskie gave West a 19-15 lead and then Dale took over.
Over about a five-minute span, Dale scored 11 points and came up with a couple of steals as he displayed some dazzling inside moves - with his back to the basket.
A dandy rebound and sweep by the ambidextrous Dale capped a 20-10 run for the Scarlets and gave West a 35-25 lead with 4:20 to play in the opening half.
"He's good," Feterl said about Dale. "But, luckily, I have good assistant coaches, who suggested that we not play him quite so tight. He was not as effective when we gave him some space and made him try to go over us instead of around us."
Harrison (10 rebounds) scored his first basket of the game at the 3:20 mark, slicing MW's lead to seven, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Josh Athey (assists from Majeskie and Knutson) gave the Scarlets their first 13-point lead, 41-28.
Rodning responded with eight of his points over the final two minutes of the first half, capping an 11-4 Sibley East run with a long 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
The Scarlets opened the second half with several fastbreaks, converting numerous times on well-executed "slip" passes as they twice extended their six-point edge into a pair of 13-point leads.
But that was when Grabow and the rest of the Wolverines began the first part of their comeback which produced 42 of the game's final 58 points.
Sibley East 85,
Mankato West 72
Mankato West (4-4): J.Dale 9 3-5 21, Athey 2 0-0 6, Burmeister 2 1-4 5, Knutson 1 0-0 3, Jones 4 2-2 11, Majeskie 9 1-3 21, Schlicte 1 0-0 3, Myers 1 0-0 2. Totals 29 7-14 72.
Sibley East (4-3): Rodning 4 5-6 15, Weber 1 2-6 4, Bates 9 1-1 20, Harrison 4 3-4 11, Haefs 4 4-4 16, Grabow 8 3-4 19. Totals 30 18-25 85.
Halftime: Mankato West 45, Sibley East 39 3-point goals: Mankato West 7 (Athey 2, Majeskie 2, Schlichte, Knutson, Jones) Sibley East 7 (Haefs 4, Rodning 2, Bates)