INTERNATIONAL FALLS- For the North Woods boys basketball team, Tuesday’s 78-68 road win at International Falls was a test of survival. For the Broncos, it was the game that got away too …
INTERNATIONAL FALLS- For the North Woods boys basketball team, Tuesday’s 78-68 road win at International Falls was a test of survival. For the Broncos, it was the game that got away too early.
T.J. Chiabotti scored 13 of the Grizzlies’ final 15 points in the final four minutes of the game, the last 11 of those coming from the free-throw line as the North Woods junior found multiple ways to get to the line.
The Grizzlies needed every one of those charities to keep the Broncos in check. Trailing 38-25 at the half, the Broncos cut the North Woods lead to eight, 63-55, when Chiabotti was fouled on a made layup and dropped in the ensuing free throw. The Broncos got back within nine three times, and each time Chiabotti stepped up with a pair of free throws to hold them at bay.
North Woods got off to a 6-0 start and never trailed in the game, but it wasn’t because the Broncos lacked scoring opportunities. The Broncos had little difficulty working the ball down low, but they fired up one short-range blank after another, with North Woods hitting the glass hard to deny second-chance buckets.
Leading 13-10, Jonah Burnett ignited the run that would put North Woods safely ahead with a three-pointer. Chiabotti scored on a layup and a trey, Sean Morrison dropped a pair of buckets, and Davis Kleppe nailed a hoop in a 14-2 run that gave North Woods its largest lead of the game at 27-12.
While all the North Woods guards are capable of bombing from long range, the Grizzlies collected only three treys in the game. Instead, when they weren’t running the break, the Grizzlies focused on working teammates free for drives to the bucket and short and mid-range jumpers.
Chiabotti dominated scoring in the second half, collecting 27 of the Grizzlies’ 40 points en route to a game-high 37 points. Darius Goggleye was the only other North Woods player in double figures with 11. Eight different Grizzlies scored in the contest.
The Grizzlies likely needed a challenging contest after overwhelming Littlefork-Big Falls 102-34 on Friday at home.
Any concerns North Woods Head Coach Will Kleppe had about past slow starts by the Grizzlies were erased right from the outset. Frenetic full-court pressure throttled the Vikings’ offense as the Grizzlies went on a scoring tear, grabbing a 22-6 lead with the game barely five minutes old. If the game had been a boxing match, L-BF might well have thrown in the towel at halftime with the pummeling they were taking, as North Woods held a 44-point, 63-19 lead.
Kleppe devoted practices to defense in the runup to the game, and the Grizzlies were even more effective in the second half, allowing only 15 points. North Woods forced a mind-blowing 46 L-BF turnovers, with 34 of those coming on steals. While the Grizzlies cooled slightly on offense in the second half, they put up 60 more shots in the game than L-BF, 84-24, and hit 46 percent of them.
All ten Grizzlies scored in the game, with five of them reaching double figures. T.J. Chiabotti led all scorers with 22, Jared Chiabotti and Brenden Chiabotti each scored 16, and Darius Goggleye and Sean Morrison tallied 11 apiece.
The Grizzlies are riding a five-game win streak and take a 6-1 record into a Friday road game at Mesabi East. The Giants are winless in five games thus far. North Woods will return home on Friday, Feb. 19 to play Virgina. The Blue Devils lost to Eveleth-Gilbert on Tuesday, a team the Grizzlies beat by 21 points.
Home contests for all Grizzlies basketball teams, boys and girls, are livestreamed online on the NFHS Network. The service has monthly and annual subscription options.