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Poor shooting dooms Minnesota West men

WORTHINGTON -- Even with a 28-point performance from Eddie Marrs, the Minnesota West men's basketball team couldn't catch Northland in the Pioneer's 80-70 victory Friday night.

"We had two or three guys scoring, and we just didn't have a very balanced scoring attack tonight," Minnesota West head coach Justin Heckenlaible said.

Along with Marrs' 28, Devon Harrell scored 19 points for the Bluejays.

"We had a pretty good defensive game," Northland head coach Rick Nikunen said. "Marrs is a tough player. You try different things to keep him from getting his points, and he still gets them."

However, Gordy Sanford was the next leading scorer for Minnesota West, with seven points.

"We just couldn't knock down the shots. We executed very well, it just comes down to making shots," Heckenlaible said. "Every time we screwed up defensively, or had a breakdown, they made the shots. Every time they broke down and we had our shots, we just couldn't make them."

Minnesota West (2-4) shot 33 percent in the game, while Northland shot 57 percent.

"We had plenty of guys tonight, they just didn't make shots tonight," Heckenlaible said.

Northland's Reokenski Thomas scored 16 points, while Marcus Gardiner had 15, and Jeremy Sich added 13, creating a balance attack for the Pioneers.

"We've been struggling scoring points, and it's been more of an execution thing," Nikunen said. "The timing has been off a little bit, and we've spent a lot of time in practice trying to get the guys to understand that going fast isn't' always the best."

After Marrs scored the first points of the game, Northland's Luke Settergren (nine points) hit a trey to take the lead.

However, Marrs answered with another basket, as both teams went back and forth.

Northland (4-2) opened up a seven-point lead on a shot from Johnell Hallman (10 points) in the early minutes of the first half.

Devon Harrell made two consecutive 3s from the left corner as West took a 14-13 advantage.

While West went on a three minute scoring drought, Marrs once again came through with two baskets. Another three from Harrell brought the Bluejays back to within three points, but a jumper from Matt Horejsi (nine points) bumped the Northland lead to five.

In the closing minutes, Hallman hit back-to-back shots as the Pioneers took a 35-27 lead into halftime.

Of West's 27 first half points, Marrs and Harrell combined for 23, as Northland had a eight point lead.

After a basket by Sanford, Marrs scored seven points to start the second half, but Northland increased its lead to 16.

Heckenlaible used a timeout to regroup his team, and the Bluejays responded with a 10-1 run to cut the lead to seven.

However, with three minutes left in the game, Northland had an 11-point lead.

A trey from West's' Sanford and a free throw from Marrs cut the lead to seven, but that was as close as the Bluejays would get in Northland's 80-70 victory.

"Every time they got an offensive rebound they scored, and every time we broke down, they took advantage of it," Heckenlaible said. "They are a very nice team, and it came down to a couple of critical possessions, and we didn't rebound when we needed it."

Even with Minnesota West playing aggressive defense, the Pioneers committed only 10 turnovers.

"I thought we handled their pressure in the second half when they got behind," Nikunen said. "We handled the ball well, and didn't' turn it over. We made our free throws down the stretch."

The Pioneers were at the line 28 times, and converted on 19 of those tries, while the Bluejays were just 11-of-14.

For the Pioneers, Gardiner was nine-of-11 from the line.

Northland had just nine offensive rebounds, but had 42 total, while West had just 35. Gardiner led all players with eight boards, while Sanford led West with six.

Minnesota West will be on the court again today when it hosts Itasca.

Northland 35 45 -- 80

Minnesota West 27 43 -- 70

Northland (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hallman 0-5-0-10, Horejsi 1-2-2-9, Larson 1-1-1-6, Thomas 1-5-3-16, Sich 1-3-4-13, Settergren 1-3-0-9, VanBeest 0-1-0-2, Gardiner 0-3-9-15. Totals 5-23-19-80.

Minnesota West (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Aggen 0-1-3-5, Sanford 1-2-0-7, Harrell 4-2-3-19, Marrs 0-12-4-28, Delaney 2-0-0-6, Clark 0-2-0-2, Lee 0-1-1-3. Totals 7-19-11-70.