HIBBING- When the whistle blew after TJ Chiabotti launched a three-point shot with 7:44 remaining in the North Woods game against Carlton on Saturday, everyone in the gym expected the …
HIBBING- When the whistle blew after TJ Chiabotti launched a three-point shot with 7:44 remaining in the North Woods game against Carlton on Saturday, everyone in the gym expected the Grizzlies’ sophomore guard to be stepping to the line to try to complete a rare four-point play.
But the foul was called underneath before the ball ripped through the cords, so it was a surprised Darius Goggleye, not Chiabotti, who found himself at the charity stripe. Goggleye casually canned both free throws to complete the freakish five-point play.
Coming on the heels of two free throws by Brenden Chiabotti and a layup by Jared Chiabotti, the Grizzlies suddenly found themselves ahead by a comfortable 17-point margin, 65-48. Just four minutes earlier Carlton trailed by only four, 50-46. The Grizzlies poured it on the rest of the way, winning 88-63 to advance to a Wednesday night sectional semifinal matchup against Ely.
Carlton gave the Grizzlies all they could handle right from the outset. The Bulldogs canned three consecutive treys to nab an early 13-8 lead, causing Grizzlies Head Coach Will Kleppe to call a quick time out.
North Woods regained the lead 21-19 when Trevor Morrison scored on an inbounds pass. The Grizzlies kept the pressure on, building an 11-point lead, 38-27, on two Levi Byram free throws with 3:50 left in the half. But North Woods went ice cold, allowing Carlton to get back to within 38-35 before TJ Chiabotti hit on a baseline drive with four seconds left for a 40-35 lead at the break.
Kleppe told his team that they needed to elevate their play in the second half.
“We kind of put it on the boys in the locker room that you’re either going to pick it up or you’re going to go home and put your uniforms away,” Kleppe said. “They responded well. I thought the defensive effort in the second half was very good.”
However, the 13-13 Bulldogs wouldn’t budge until mounting foul problems sent two of their starters to the bench with four fouls with 9:06 remaining. The Grizzlies took advantage, outscoring the Bulldogs 30-15 down the stretch.
TJ Chiabotti scored 22 points from the field, including two three-pointers, and hit all four of his free throws to lead the team with 26 points. Brenden Chiabotti scored 17, Trevor Morrison counted two treys among his 14 points, and Goggleye scored 10.
The Grizzlies are gunning for a fourth consecutive trip to the Class A state tournament, but must first deal with Ely, a 73-58 winner over Mt. Iron-Buhl on Saturday. Game time will be 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the sectional final at 7 p.m. Friday. Both games will be at Hibbing Memorial Arena.