FIELD TWP- Down by double digits in the first half, the North Woods boys basketball team turned up the heat defensively and came roaring back in the second half to defeat Eveleth-Gilbert 87-66 on …
FIELD TWP- Down by double digits in the first half, the North Woods boys basketball team turned up the heat defensively and came roaring back in the second half to defeat Eveleth-Gilbert 87-66 on Friday on the Grizzlies’ home court.
The Golden Bears had a decided height advantage that they capitalized on early as they methodically built a 33-20 lead, and appeared to be in firm control of the game.
“E-G took advantage of their size in the first half and was winning the rebounding battle and getting too many second-chance opportunities,” North Woods Head Coach Will Kleppe said.
But then Jonah Burnett drained a three from the left corner, and intense trapping pressure resulted in a TJ Chiabotti steal and layup, and a North Woods comeback was in full swing. Powered by eight more points by Chiabotti and scores by Jared Chiabotti, Alex Hartway, and Jake Panichi, the Grizzlies roared back to take a 44-41 lead. A late three by Eveleth-Gibert knotted the score at 44 at the half.
“Our pressure defense turned the tide right before halftime and gave us the momentum that we carried into the second half,” Kleppe said. “Once we got buy-in that the defense was going to dictate the tempo of the game and we started to get some turnovers and transition buckets, things started to roll for us.”
Brenden Chiabotti got the Grizzlies off to a fast start in the second half by scoring the team’s first three baskets, including two treys.
But rebounding and defense were the primary factors in the Grizzlies’ second-half dominance. They held the Golden Bears to half the number of points they scored in the first while continuing to roll on offense, led by TJ Chiabotti’s game-high 27 points.
“E-G had a definite size advantage but we won the rebound battle,” Kleppe said. ”Darius (Goggleye) battles hard in there but he needs some help from the perimeter guys. TJ, Jared, and Alex started to pull in some big rebounds for us.”
The outsized Grizzlies won the battle of the boards 41-36. The team also had 18 steals and forced 28 E-G turnovers in the game, negating 55-percent shooting by the Golden Bears.
The Golden Bears stayed within striking distance for much of the second half, trailing 70-60 with just over six minutes remaining, but the Grizzlies slammed the door on a comeback with a 17-6 blitz to end the game.
Brendan Chiabotti was runner-up in scoring for the Grizzlies with 11, followed by ten each for Jared Chiabotti and Jonah Burnett.
Kleppe praised the contributions from his bench players in the win.
“We got some excellent minutes from Jonah (Burnett), Davis (Kleppe), Sean (Morrison), Jake (Panichi) and Erik (Aune),” Kleppe said. “It presents a challenge for teams when we can rotate that many players and keep the tempo in our favor. This team continues to be a work in progress. The boys are working very hard in practice. They know we have work to do and it’s not all going to happen overnight.”
The Grizzlies are scheduled to host Bigfork on Friday, and host Littlefork-Big Falls on Feb. 5.