FIELD TWP – By halftime of the Grizzlies boys home basketball game against Bigfork on Friday, North Woods fans had just three questions deserving of serious consideration: when would the …
FIELD TWP – By halftime of the Grizzlies boys home basketball game against Bigfork on Friday, North Woods fans had just three questions deserving of serious consideration: when would the Grizzlies hit 100 points, who would score the century bucket, and what would the final scoring margin be?
Comfortably in control 58-32 at the break, the Grizzlies opened the second half with a devastating 26-2 haymaker, hit the century mark on a Sean Morrison basket with 4:13 left on a running clock, and closed out with a dominating 108-57 win.
Head Coach Will Kleppe was satisfied with the outcome, but he wasn’t happy at all when Bigfork’s Bradley Haley scored the Huskies’ first basket on a wide-open shot underneath the basket on a play the Grizzlies had practiced preventing. Kleppe immediately called time out.
“We spent a lot of practice time covering what they’re going to do offensively and on that possession, we were confused and gave up a flex cut under the basket,” Kleppe said. “That’s something we had worked very hard on the previous two practices. It didn’t transfer to the first possession of the game, that was a lot of frustration.”
Kleppe said his team has shown a tendency toward slow starts this season and that he and his staff are still working to address that if they’re going to win the tougher games ahead.
The Grizzlies got the message, bolting to an 18-4 lead that included several transition baskets initiated by their defense. North Woods defenders created 22 turnovers that led to 39 points in the game.
North Woods shot a scalding 61 percent from the field, and no one had a hotter hand than Darius Goggleye in the waning minutes of the first half. With about three minutes remaining, Goggleye went on a 10-point spree that started with the senior forward leading the Grizzlies’ fast break. Maneuvering within ten feet of the hoop, Goggleye added four more buckets without a miss before the buzzer. His 17 points for the game were second only to T.J. Chiabotti’s 21.
“It was a nice game by Darius,” Kleppe said. “When he gets the ball, we’ll go to work. We have confidence in him that when he gets a ball in his hands – he’s got moves, he’s smooth, he’s a good finisher, you know, we want him to take advantage of that. And a big thing with Darius is that he runs the floor well.”
While Kleppe has routinely used all ten varsity players this season, the bench crew was really in the mix this time, with every player logging at least 10 minutes of play. Davis Kleppe, Eric Aune, and Jonah Burnett made their cases for more playing time on the defensive side of the ball.
“Some of our best defensive efforts came off the bench,” Kleppe said. “Everybody wants minutes, and some of those guys are really taking it to heart that if this is going to be their opportunity to prove themselves to get those minutes, they’re doing it by being more aggressive defensively.”
Brenden Chiabotti and Jared Chiabotti joined the other Grizzlies scoring in double digits with 14 and 12, respectively. No North Woods player scored fewer than six points.
Kleppe won’t deny that he wants to score as many points as they can, but some upcoming opponents have the talent necessary to slow down the running game, limit turnovers, and score with the Grizzlies.
Points are good, but defense appears critical for this team’s overall success.
“We’re not going to score 100 every game, that’s for sure,” Kleppe said. “If the flow of the game determines that we’re only going to score 60, well, we’d better hold the other team to 50. That’s where that whole defensive mindset comes back in. There are some great teams out there, there’s some great teams in this section. The whole focus now is that we have to take some points off of our defensive average. Good defense is a mindset. We’re dedicating this whole week of practice just to getting that mindset right. We’re going to see where we are in a couple of weeks with this and if the boys take it to heart or not.”
The Grizzlies play at home on Friday against Littlefork-Big Falls before hitting the road for a Tuesday game at International Falls.