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FIELD TWP- The North Woods boys treated the home fans to two big wins last week, an 83-80 thriller over Class AA Rock Ridge and a thorough pasting of Chisholm.The Wolverines of Rock Ridge were a …
FIELD TWP- The North Woods boys treated the home fans to two big wins last week, an 83-80 thriller over Class AA Rock Ridge and a thorough pasting of Chisholm.
The Wolverines of Rock Ridge were a formidable foe coming into Thursday night’s tilt, a tall, athletic crew sporting an 18-5 record against mostly AA and AAA foes. But the Grizzlies wasted little time setting the tone, using treys by Johan Burnett and Brenden Chiabotti and a bucket and one by Kaden Ratai to go up 9-4 early. North Woods wasn’t afraid to take the ball into the lane, utilizing the drive and dish effectively to connect for baskets and to draw fouls as they extended the lead to an 11-point advantage, 30-19, on a three-ball by Jared Chiabotti. The Grizzlies were up 45-38 at the half.
Rock Ridge came out hot in the second half, reeling off seven points to tie the score 45-45, then adding an 11-4 run to go up 56-49. Burnett canned a pair of threes to keep North Woods close, and a triple by Talen Jarshaw knotted the score at 65-65 with 9:27 remaining. The lead traded hands twice before Brendan Chiabotti connected on a triple to tie it again, 75-75, with just over a minute to play.
The ball changed hands ten times in the final minute of play after Brenden Chiabotti stepped to the line and sank a pair of free throws with 48 seconds left to put the Grizzlies up 77-75. North Woods collected charities from Brenden Chiabotti, Jared Chiabotti, and Eli Smith over the next 38 seconds, but a Rock Ridge trey with 2.9 remaining gave the Wolverines one last hope, trailing 81-80. Burnett assured the Grizzlies of no worse than a tie by cashing in a pair from the line, and North Woods took the 83-80 upset win when a desperation heave by Rock Ridge missed the mark.
Grizzlies Head Coach Andrew Jugovich began his postgame interview with a triumphant whoop.
“That’s the hardest game we’ve played all year against one hell of a team,” Jugovich said. “It’s always hard to play here, especially with the fans we had tonight, but our boys came out and busted their butts for 36 minutes and finally got a game that they could win in a close one. We rebounded, we fought for loose balls, and we took good shots.”
Senior Jared Chiabotti said defense was a key to victory.
“We really just stepped it up on defense, and especially we locked down on their best shooters,” he said. “We ran to close out and get rebounds, and we did everything we could.”
The Grizzlies won this game by getting to the free throw line and converting a sizzling 82 percent of their charities. North Woods went 23-of-28 from the line, while Rock Ridge went just six-of-11.
Burnett topped the Grizzlies in scoring with 26, followed by Brenden Chiabotti with 17, Jared Chiabotti with 16, and Ratai with 11.
The Grizzlies were back on the court Friday for a sectional battle against Chisholm. North Woods had this one well in hand in the first half, building a 30-16 lead, but the Bluestreaks rallied to cut the halftime deficit to only three, 34-31. Chisholm pulled to within one at 34-33 to start the second half, but North Woods quickly reasserted itself on both ends of the court with a 24-6 run to go up 58-39 and effectively put this one out of reach. North Woods was up by 20 with time running down when Brenden Chiabotti put an exclamation point on the beatdown with an NBA-range trey as time expired for the 81-58 win.
Jugovich said his team really came together in the second half.
“We stopped turning the ball over, and we started hustling more. That’s all we needed,” he said. “They had so many fast break points in the first half from us just giving them the ball. Once we figured it out, we were fine. We just had to execute.”
North Woods had another big night at the free throw line, going 21-of-27 for 79 percent.
Brenden Chiabotti and Jared Chiabotti tied for scoring honors with 23 each, followed closely by Burnett with 22.
North Woods was scheduled to close out the regular season on the road with a Tuesday trip to Carlton and a Friday game at Deer River. The Section 7A tournament begins next week, with the Grizzlies sitting in fifth position and eyeing a tourney opener at home prior to the Carlton and Deer River games.
The Grizzlies ran their current winning streak to six on Tuesday with a 105-81 road win at Carlton.
Junior guard Jonah Burnett provided the North Woods highlight of the night when he connected on a three-pointer before halftime to become the third Grizzlies’ player this season to eclipse the 1,000-point career scoring mark. Burnett has been a standout scorer for the Grizzlies this season, whether battling inside against the big men or raining clutch threes from the perimeter. Seniors Jared Chiabotti and Brenden Chiabotti crossed 1,000 career points earlier this season.
“Jonah has been one of the hardest workers for us on and off the court,” Jugovich said. “His drive to be great is so under appreciated. The way he is playing will hopefully help lead us to a few wins once we hit section tournament time.”
The Grizzlies have taken advantage of having three potent scorers during their current streak, averaging 98.8 points per game. The trio came through again against Carlton, with Burnett scoring 40 and Jared and Brendan Chiabotti hitting for 18 each. The Grizzlies will likely need all that firepower and a stout defense in their last regular season game Friday at 20-5 Deer River.
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