Moorhead mounts late comeback, but falls short against Minnetonka
MOORHEAD — A pair of technical fouls on Minnetonka down the stretch let Moorhead back in the game, but they couldn’t quite overcome a double-digit second-half deficit. The Spuds fell 71-68 to the Skippers in Minnesota boys basketball on Friday at Moorhead High School.
Minnetonka led 67-55 with just under two minutes remaining when Vlad Ciubotaru got a technical foul and sent Drew Hagen to the free-throw line. Hagen made four free throws in a row and the Spuds got the ball back. After a Moorhead miss, Minnetonka big man Cam Steele grabbed a rebound and called a timeout. But the Spuds forced a turnover and Belind Alemandi converted an and-1 with a minute to go to make it 67-62.
“Four straight points and ball back gave us a great opportunity,” Hagen said. “I just had to picture (the free throws) going in.”
Steele answered with a two-handed slam, but hung on the rim and drew a technical, sending Brady Walthall to the line. Walthall made both free throws and then Ethan Hegg drove into the lane for a layup to make it 69-66 in the final 20 seconds.
“It was a great effort by our guys, we just didn’t quite make enough plays down the stretch,” Hagen said. “A couple of plays go a different way in the middle of the game, a couple shots go in and it’s a different game.”
The Skippers broke down the Spuds press and Ciubotaru made a layup with 18 seconds to go. Alemandi came back with a quick layup with 8.7 seconds to go. Hagen fouled Steele and he went to the line for a 1-and-1. He missed the free throw and the Spuds grabbed the rebound, but Minnetonka turned the ball over and ran out the clock.
“We stayed together as a group and that’s big,” Moorhead head coach Tyler Bormann said. “We didn’t fracture as a group and we fought back to get right back in it. That was a high-level high school basketball game. It’s a one-possession game. You could go back and look at so many possessions that could turn the game in another direction.”
Steele, a 6-foot-8 senior forward created problems for the Spuds inside, racking up 26 points and several dunks. He took over the beginning of the second half, scoring 10 of his team’s first 12 points coming out of the break.
“They were big inside, but Trey did a good job on him,” Hagen said. “Held him to 10 points in the first half and 14 in the second half. A lot of his points were kind of leak out dunks. I think we did a good job on him, but they had a lot of shooters they were able to kick out to and they made a lot of shots.”
The Skippers built their 13-point lead behind a 13-3 run midway through the second half. The run featured three 3-pointers and five points by Riley O’Connor. Minnetonka made a total of 10 3-pointers with three coming from sophomore Cohen Kellogg.
“I thought they shot really well from the perimeter and we missed some shots,” Bormann said. “Early on, they were able to attack us and get us in recovery mode defensively. And we had a tough time getting the ball to the front of the rim tonight.”
Brady Walthall led the Spuds with 19 points, while Alemandi and Hagen each scored 14.
“Brady Walthall I thought had a really nice night tonight,” Bormann said. “He changes speeds so well and tonight I thought he was aggressive, and what I was really happy with was that he was assertive. He made assertive decisions with the basketball. Belind Alemadi was great tonight as well. He was aggressive and assertive and got the ball downhill.”
Moorhead: Brady Walthall 19, Alemadi 14, Hagen 14, Hinsz 9, Hegg 5, Blake Walthall 4, Feeney 3.
Minnetonka: Kellogg 14, Steele 24, Ciubotaru 8, Cain 4, O'Connor 10, Banken 5, Gaffney 6.