Byron erupts in second half to beat Jordan in Holiday Classic game
WORTHINGTON -- Jake Braaten is a young man of few words.
But he knows all about action. Friday night in a first-round Globe/Trojan Holiday Classic boys basketball game at Worthington High School, the 6-0 playmaking junior and his Byron Bears outscored Jordan 41-19 in the second half en route to an 85-65 victory.
Trailing 46-44 at halftime, the Bears scored the first nine points of the second half and never looked back.
“We came out ready to fight,” Braaten said.
It was a much different game in the first half. After taking a 16-6 lead, Byron allowed the Hubmen to make an impressive run.
The run was fueled primarily by 6-3 senior Jordan guard Ryan Samuelson, who got hot from the arc midway through the half. He ripped six 3-point shots, in fact, and had 28 points at intermission. But he scored just three points in the entire second half.
“We took care of the ball well and moved it around and made plays,” said Braaten.
His head coach, Kyle Finney, agreed with that assessment, and added a little more.
“We made some defensive adjustments. Number 10 (Samuelson), he was absolutely on fire,” said Finney, who answered by putting more defenders on the sharpshooter. In doing so, the Bears kept Samuelson from getting half as many free looks at the basket from 3-point land.
Byron’s athleticism and ball movement was plainly evident in the second half. Braaten led the way, finishing with 20 points, but he also had five rebounds and five steals. Teammate Ahjany Lee, an angular 6-8 sophomore, contributed two dunks while finishing with 16 points. Another impressive teammate, 6-2 junior forward Easton Hulke, displayed several silky moves with the basketball and had 12 points.
With the win, Byron evened its record at 4-4. The Bears will play in the tournament championship game today at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of Friday’s late game between Worthington and Mankato West. Jordan will play in the consolation championship at 3 p.m.
“I think our endurance -- they seemed to tire,” Finney explained Friday night’s second half. “We’re very athletic and we’re very young. But they play well together. They’re one of the more unselfish teams we’ve had. ... We like to think we’re good on defense. We gave up 48 points in the first half. And that was unacceptable.”
Braaten was told before the season began that, although he’s just a junior, he was to be the team’s leader. Leadership comes naturally to him, said his coach.
“The kids looked to him right away. The kids came to him right away,” Finney said.
Braaten, whose muscular build serves him well when driving the lane for assists or scores, doesn’t hesitate when asked to describe his role.
“I’m a leader,” he replied, adding, “I think as a leader I do a lot of things. I look to score, I look to pass. I rebound.”
“Just a solid all-around player,” testified his coach. “He does it on both ends.”
Byron 44 85
Jordan 46 65
BYRON (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Braaten 2-6-2-20, Tr. Underwood 3-0-0-9, Dearborn 1-2-0-7, Hulke 0-6-0-12, Lee 0-7-2-16, Ty. Underwood 0-0-0-0, DeCook 0-3-2-8, Marine 0-2-1-5, Miller 0-0-0-0, Wilde 0-2-0-4, Hough 0-0-2-2. Totals 6-28-9-85.
JORDAN (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) -- Dietel 1-1-0-5, Samuelson 6-4-5-31, Sievers 0-3-0-6, McDermid 0-0-0-0, Koch 0-3-1-7, Kloeppel 0-0-2-2, Keiser 1-1-0-5, Sivilay 0-1-0-2, Murray 0-1-0-2, Barnett 1-1-0-5. Totals 9-13-8-65.