SOUTH RIDGE- The North Woods boys opened the 2023-24 basketball season with a pair of road wins this week, taking down South Ridge on Monday and Bigfork on Tuesday. The Grizzlies had decided height …
SOUTH RIDGE- The North Woods boys opened the 2023-24 basketball season with a pair of road wins this week, taking down South Ridge on Monday and Bigfork on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies had decided height and quickness advantages against Bigfork on Tuesday but had trouble capitalizing on them on the offensive end of the floor in the first half. Despite an overwhelming defense that kept the Huskies from notching a basket from the field for the first ten minutes of the game, the Grizzlies were up only 17-5 at the eight-minute mark, with seven of those points from the charity stripe. The Grizzlies had mixed success trying to push the tempo, connecting on some fast break opportunities while squandering others with missed shots and turnovers. Jonah Burnett was the Grizzlies big gun on offense, scoring 25 first-half points as North Woods led 37-15 at the break.
Bigfork came out more aggressively to start the second half by going on a 10-3 run to narrow the gap to 40-25. But a Louie Panichi drive for two was the spark the Grizzlies needed to shake out of their doldrums, and North Woods got points from Burnett, Evan Kajala, Luke Will, Talen Jarshaw, and a triple by Panichi in a scorching 18-2 run to lead 58-27. The Grizzlies kept the score doubled from there until Head Coach Andrew Jugovich emptied his bench with the clock running and the score 74-36 with about four minutes to play. The Grizzlies left the floor with their second win of the season 76-42.
Burnett led the Grizzlies in scoring with 35 points, followed by Will with 17 points.
“Our defense was very good,” Jugovich said. “The first half we held them to 15, and we played with intensity very well. It could have been better, but I’ll take that. Last year we let Bigfork drop 65 on us.”
Jugovich knew coming into the season that opponents would be keying in on stopping Burnett, and he was pleased with how he adapted in a high post set.
“Nobody can stop Jonah,” Jugovich said. “When he caught it and went straight up it was like bread and butter, easy every time. When he was dancing around and got his pivots was when the defense would collapse on him and it was a much more difficult shot.”
Commenting on the subpar performance from three-point range, Jugovich said the team would keep plugging away at threes.
“I’m not going to let that discourage the boys because when they’re open and everybody’s collapsing inside that is going to be a better shot for us,” he said. “In all reality, from all of our shots we’ve taken there haven’t been many that have been truly bad ones.”
No coach is happy with turnovers, including Jugovich.
“For how fast we’re playing, we’ll get ten to 15 going full speed and sprinting all the time,” he said. “It’s just the unforced ones where we have a guy open and we’re forcing the ball to them and it comes up short or goes long. I think just fixing those small little judgment calls we’ll be able to work better.”
A big first half spurred by tenacious defense catapulted the North Woods boys to a win in their season opener on Monday, a 93-64 blitz over South Ridge.
Will put the Grizzlies up 2-0 on a fast break, but both teams had problems finding any rhythm early with 14 turnovers combined in their first 18 possessions. North Woods got on track first with scores by Burnett and Panichi, and when the Grizzlies went up 14-4 on another Will bucket they had a double digit lead that they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the night.
With the Grizzlies playing stifling man-to-man defense that kept the Panthers rattled, the lead quickly grew to 30-11 on a pair of Burnett fast break buckets. North Woods kept the pedal to the metal on both ends of the floor, with Panichi putting the end cap on a 29-5 run with a three-ball and a deuce. North Woods went into halftime leading by 30, 54-24.
There were no big runs to be had for the Grizzlies in the second half, as South Ridge made some halftime adjustments that made for a closer matchup the rest of the way. The Panthers closed the margin to 80-60 with just under five minutes left to play, but a Grizzlies’ closing run of 13-4 accounted for the 93-64 win.
Indicative of the Grizzlies’ defensive prowess are the number of steals they had, 33, and South Ridge’s 43 turnovers, which the Grizzlies turned into 46 points. Jarshaw picked the Panthers’ pockets a team high ten times, an effort Jugovich singled out as setting the tone for the North Woods defense.
North Woods shot an impressive 47.5 percent from the field, but they didn’t have the touch from three-point land, hitting just four out of 26 attempts.
Panichi led the team in scoring with 24 points, followed closely by Burnett. The other two Grizzlies in double figures were Will with 19 and Jarshaw with 16.
Jugovich acknowleged the team’s early struggles.
“It was bad,” he said. “We were spreading the ball and being unselfish, and I think that’s where some of our turnovers came – we were being too unselfish.”
But overall, Jugovich was satisfied with the victory.
“Beside the turnovers, we can live with this first one,” he said. “We moved the ball well, and we played 60 percent of the game with the defensive intensity we want.”