FIELD TWP- With the North Woods boys basketball team faltering in three of four games in the past week, this stretch might well be referred to postseason as the “period of great …
FIELD TWP- With the North Woods boys basketball team faltering in three of four games in the past week, this stretch might well be referred to postseason as the “period of great realignment.”
Entering last Thursday’s home tilt against Chisholm, the Grizzlies were flying high atop Section 7A. Four games later, North Woods had only a win against lowly Lakeside Christian and losses to three of the other section big dogs, and had slipped to 9-4 and third in the section.
Tuesday night’s matchup at Nashwauk-Keewatin was a delayed faceoff between teams that were supposed to square off in last year’s sectional final for a berth in the state tournament. That game and the tournament never happened, both canceled due to COVID-19 precautions.
North Woods came out hot from three-point land in this one, with an opening trey from Jared Chiabotti and two triples by Brenden Chiabotti fueling a 15-12 Grizzlies’ lead going into a time out. When the Grizzlies came back on the floor they torched the Spartans from beyond the arc. Five threes in six possessions on deep solo salvos from T.J. Chiabotti, Alex Hartway, and Davis Kleppe and two from Jared Chiabotti staked the Grizzlies to a surprising 14-point lead, 30-16, with just over eight minutes left in the half. No Grizzly would hit another triple for the next 14 minutes.
Extending their defense well into three-point land, the Spartans needed only four minutes to put together an emphatic 15-0 answer, taking their first lead, 31-30, at the 3:50 mark. But two buckets by T.J. Chiabotti and two by Sean Morrison gave North Woods a 38-33 edge at the half.
The beginning of the end for the Grizzlies came with the score knotted at 51 each with just over 10 minutes to play. Over the next five minutes the Spartans connected on four treys while the Grizzlies fired blanks on all five triples they attempted, and NK forged a 67-56 lead. The Grizzlies got back to within five, but no closer, and when a half-hearted T.J. Chiabotti three-pointer sailed wide of the mark at the buzzer, North Woods walked off the court on the short end of an 83-73 score.
T.J. Chiabotti led North Woods with 25 points, followed by Jared Chiabotti with 13 and Brendan Chiabotti with 12.
Deer River now sits in the top spot in the section, riding a 10-game win streak that includes an 81-70 win over the Grizzlies last Friday.
North Woods grabbed a quick 5-0 lead on a trey by T.J. Chiabotti and a bucket by Jared Chiabotti, but five of Deer River’s first six baskets were triples as they bounced back for a 17-10 lead. North Woods trailed by 12 before a basket by Morrison and an NBA-range three-pointer by Brenden Chiabotti cut the deficit to 37-30 at the half.
A Hartway trey and a Darius Goggleye bucket to open the second half cut the lead to just two, but that was as close as the Grizzlies would get, falling behind by as many as 17 and losing by 11.
“Poor shooting caught up with us again,” North Woods Head Coach Will Kleppe said. “We brought a much better level of energy but just couldn’t get the shots to fall.”
When all was said and done in this rough-and-tumble affair, free throws were the difference. Deer River held a scant two-point edge from the field but went 18-of-27 from the charity stripe on 22 North Woods fouls. The Grizzlies got to the line only 16 times and shot just 56 percent in knocking down nine.
Goggleye was the leading scorer in a losing cause, collecting 15 points, and T.J. Chiabotti tallied 14.
“Deer River is a quality team and well coached,” Kleppe said. “With their size and speed they are going to be a favorite going into the tournament.”
It was Chisholm that knocked the Grizzlies down a notch last Thursday in a see saw come-from-behind thriller, 64-63.
North Woods went from being down nine, 27-18, midway through the first half to being up 10 in the second, 47-37.
But Chisholm fought back, and with 14 seconds left T.J. Chiabotti stepped to the line for a one-and one to protect a razor-thin 63-62 Grizzlies lead. His first attempt clanked hard off the back of the rim and ricocheted into the hands of a Bluestreaks rebounder. Racing down the court, Bryce Warner hit the go-ahead shot with six seconds to go, and a desperation running one-hander by Chiabotti glanced off the rim to seal a heartbreaking 64-63 defeat.
“We had chances in the second half to put it away, but breakdowns on both sides of the ball were our downfall,” Kleppe said. “When every team gives you their best game you can’t have that. We were very flat and got outhustled.”
Chisholm had the hot hands in this one, outshooting the Grizzlies 53 percent to 36 percent. Forced to shoot from outside much of the night, North Woods put up 30 three-point shots but made only seven.
Goggleye led North Woods scorers on his birthday with 18 points. T.J. Chiabotti scored 13, Jared Chiabotti knocked down 11, and Brenden Chiabotti had 10.
Monday’s 87-39 road win against Lakeview Christian Academy was the sole bright spot in the four-game stretch. With a decided edge in height and talent, the Grizzlies took command early by pushing the ball inside and led 54-19 at the half.
Most of T.J. Chiabotti’s 26 points came from inside the paint – he hit six free throws and no treys. Goggleye was hot on his heels, hitting 11-of-19 from the field and scoring 25 points. Morrison added 10.
The Grizzlies hit 55 percent of their shots, scoring 70 points inside the lane, and they went 11-of-14 at the free throw line.
“We were able to start fast, go up 8-0, and then opened the game up,” Kleppe said. “It was a good outing against a young team.”
The 9-4 Grizzlies have four regular season games left to maintain or improve upon their third-place position in the section, but they’ll also be focused on helping a teammate achieve a personal milestone. After collecting six points in Tuesday’s game, Darius Goggleye is just 27 shy of reaching 1,000 career points. He’ll have his next opportunity to eclipse that mark when North Woods hits the road to play Ely on Friday.