FIELD TWP- It’s a little hard to fathom how a team that pummeled Mesabi East on the Giants’ home floor and is averaging 94.5 points per game is still working on jelling as a unit, but …
FIELD TWP- It’s a little hard to fathom how a team that pummeled Mesabi East on the Giants’ home floor and is averaging 94.5 points per game is still working on jelling as a unit, but North Woods boys basketball Head Coach Will Kleppe saw some good signs that things are coming together in the Grizzlies’ 110-57 win on Friday.
“I think the confidence is going up, that team chemistry is coming together pretty well,” Kleppe said. “Our defensive effort was there right at the start. We made a lot of good passes and we moved the ball. Everybody was very unselfish. If you play good defense, and you pass the ball well, you’re going to get opportunities. We some great ball movement for some three pointers. We played a pretty complete game.”
The Grizzlies spread the ball around on offense with four starters scoring in double figures. T. J. Chiabotti led the way with 26 points, followed by Darius Goggleye with 21, Brenden Chiabotti with 18, and Jared Chiabotti with 16.
The team’s fifth starter, Alex Hartway, didn’t have a bucket in the scoring fest, but his performance on defense highlights what Kleppe believes is the key to this team’s ultimate success.
“We rely heavily on Alex,” Kleppe said. “We put him at the top of our defense and truly believe he’s one of the best in the section defending on ball and up at the top of the key. He creates a lot of problems for ball handlers, he takes offenses out of their rhythm. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s such a defensive asset that we keep him out there.”
In a COVID-shortened regular season, the 7-1 Grizzlies have reached the halfway point of their schedule. Ranked at the top of Section 7A, and with the highest-scoring offense in all of Class A, the team has put up some impressive statistics. The Grizzlies have hit 47.5 percent of their shots, a number fueled in part by the number of layups they’ve scored in transition, thanks to an average 18 steals per game. North Woods has hit 31.2 percent of its three-point tries, a figure Kleppe would like to see closer to 40 percent. The team is hitting 68.4 percent of its free throws, and Kleppe would like to see improvement there, too.
North Woods has also been pulling down 42 rebounds per game and dishing out 21.3 assists. The Grizzlies have held onto the ball well, committing only 12.4 turnovers per game.
But no matter how good the numbers look right now, Kleppe is well aware that the team’s biggest tests lie ahead. Five of their remaining nine opponents rank in the top eight of the section.
“We’ve been pushing the boys hard with the understanding that there are teams in the section coming up that are going to give us our biggest challenge,” Kleppe said. ”We’re pleased with our progress, but certainly in the second half of the season when we see those teams we’re going to have to have it all together before we run into them.”
Two teams in particular will provide matchup problems that will force the Grizzlies to utilize all the tools in their arsenal.
“You’re not going to score on every team like we like to,” Kleppe said. “South Ridge doesn’t start anyone under 6-1. They’re 6-9, 6-5, 6-3, and 6-3 inside, and Nashwauk-Keewatin the same thing. They’re huge. We don’t have the size matchup for those teams to get those easy buckets that we’ve been getting. It’s going to come down defensively to how we can stop those teams before they get it over half court, and try to get our baskets that way, with everything coming out of our defense.”
The Grizzlies will be at home on Friday against Virginia and will host Chisolm in a rare Thursday night contest on Feb. 25.