MINNEAPOLIS - The North Woods Grizzlies went to Minneapolis hoping their third trip to the boys basketball state tournament would yield a title. But the surprise team of the tournament, fourth-seeded …
MINNEAPOLIS - The North Woods Grizzlies went to Minneapolis hoping their third trip to the boys basketball state tournament would yield a title. But the surprise team of the tournament, fourth-seeded Henning, had other ideas as they dominated North Woods in their Class A state title bout, 67-42. For the Grizzlies, it was the third straight year they made it to the state championship only to come away with second place.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted it to end, but we are glad we got to go down for the past three years,” senior guard Chase Kleppe said. “It’s been bittersweet. We’ve been so close yet so far each time.”
From the start the Hornets outpaced the Grizzlies in both speed and shooting.
“Henning’s speed created matchup issues for us,” said Head Coach Will Kleppe. “We were turning the ball over more than we usually do. That’s a credit to their defense. And they were good shooters.”
Junior forward Trevor Morrison led the team in scoring with 11 points and 13 rebounds, notching his third straight double-double of the tournament. Chase Kleppe added 10 of his own with six more rebounds. Senior forward Ian Sherman had six points with senior guard Cade Goggleye adding another five.
The shot heard around the court
The Grizzlies’ road to the title tilt nearly hit a detour in their semi-final round contest, when second-seeded Ada-Borup took the lead in the final two minutes after trailing the Grizzlies most of the game. But with just three seconds on the clock, and down by one, the Grizzlies in-bounded to Cade Goggleye who connected on a seemingly impossible three-point shot at the buzzer to send North Woods fans to their feet and the Grizzlies onto the finals with a 57-55 victory.
“You think you’ve seen it all and then Cade ups it,” Coach Kleppe said.
Kleppe said he knew the matchup between North Woods and Ada-Borup was going to be challenging, and that proved true.
“There was no putting them away,” he said.
The Grizzlies led through most of the game but lost ground midway through the second half allowing the Cougars to rally and take the lead in the final minutes.
“It felt good putting my team in a good position to win,” Goggleye said. “You can’t really explain the feeling, it’s just crazy.”
Morrison once again led with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Goggleye added 18 points and six assists, while Chase Kleppe tallied nine rebounds.
In the opening round last Thursday, the Grizzlies dominated the second half to claim a convincing 56-39 win over Westbrook-Walnut Grove. The Grizzlies started off slowly, giving the Chargers a slim lead in the early going. But the experienced Grizzlies took charge by the midway point, using the press to keep the Chargers off-balance. A second half reset by North Woods put a quick end to the Chargers as the Grizzlies dominated the rest of the way.
“We needed to put more pressure on them,” Coach Kleppe said. “There was a lot more perimeter pressure on the ball in the second half; our guards did a great job.”
Morrison again posted 20 points with 10 rebounds, for a double-double. Freshman guard T.J. Chiabotti poured in 11 points with five steals and assists. Goggleye added 10 points with seven assists.
The Grizzlies are losing star players as the season comes to a close. The coach and the players agree that recruiting younger players will be a top priority and they hope the team’s three-time championship appearance will aid that cause.
“We put North Woods on the map,” Goggleye said. “No one knew about us until we went down in tenth grade. I feel we gave the younger kids hope.”
There will be growing pains for returning players as they take on the roles of mentors.
“I am going to have to pick up on the rebounding a lot,” said Morrison, who will return as a senior next season. “You have to help the younger guys out who are going to fill the roles.”
Both Chase Kleppe and Cade Goggleye said they have high hopes for the team to keep building on the momentum.
“I want to see them with a state tournament banner,” Goggleye said.
As the team rebuilds some of the seniors will be moving on to new college careers, such as Kleppe who is returning to the football field next year as part of the St. Scholastica team.
Goggleye is tight- lipped on his future plans. He said he’d have something to say “soon” but wouldn’t elaborate.
For now, the team is relaxing and patting themselves on the back for another successful season.
“It hasn’t quite hit me yet,” Kleppe said. “I think about the memories I’ve had with everyone. It goes by so fast.”