Mitchell/Spray defeats Sherman County 55-45
The Mitchell/Spray Eagle/Loggers kept their playoff hopes alive on Saturday when they came from behind to knock off the visiting Sherman County Huskies 55-45 in Big Sky League basketball action.
"We wanted to control the tempo," said Mitchell/Spray head coach Garey Fischer, who also coaches the girls team. "We wanted to kill the clock as much as possible. We didn't want them taking outside shots and letting them get long rebounds and get easy putbacks."
The Eagle/Loggers, who start two freshmen and a sophomore, started slowly but quickly turned things around.
When sophomore Jonas Marquardt hit a 3-pointer, the Eagle/Loggers led 5-4. Another three, this time by 5-9 freshman post Nathan Clark, gave the Eagle/Loggers an 8-4 lead.
Playing against a much taller and more experienced Sherman County team proved to be a challenge for some of Mitchell/Spray's younger players.
Clark was attempting to guard Sherman County's 6-4 senior post Owen Christiansen.
Early on, the strategy worked as Clark used his quickness to overcome Christiansen's height advantage.
However, with Mitchell/Spray leading 10-7, Clark picked up his third foul with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter.
"It was pretty frustrating," Clark said of having to sit on the bench for the remainder of the first half. "Coach tells me to save those first three fouls in the first half, and I never listen to him. I was asking to go back in, but he didn't put me back in."
"I don't think it hurt us too much because our senior came in and played good defense on (Christiansen)," Fischer said. "It impacted us maybe more offensively than it did defensively."
Still, with Clark off the floor, Sherman County regained the lead at 16-13 heading into the second quarter.
Mitchell/Spray adjusted to not having Clark on the floor and played even the second quarter as the two teams headed to the locker room with Sherman County clinging to a 27-26 lead.
Sherman County pounded the ball inside early in the second half, taking advantage of their height to open up a 31-26 lead.
However, with Clark back on the floor, the Eagle/Loggers mounted a comeback, outscoring the Huskies 10-3 the remainder of the quarter. They entered the final stanza leading 36-35.
From there, the Eagle/Loggers took control, running the clock and looking for easy shots.
Still, the Huskies were within four points at 47-43 with 4:21 remaining in the game.
However, that was as close as Sherman County would get.
Mitchell/Spray's lone starting senior, Tate Holmes, made a pair of free throws to extend the Eagle/Loggers' lead to 49-43.
Then Holmes snared a rebound and passed the ball to Clark, who was fouled as he drove to the basket.
Clark made the second of two free throws to extend the lead to 50-43.
From that point on, each time they had the ball, the Eagle/Loggers held onto it, looking to isolate players for driving layups. Eventually the Huskies were forced to foul, and the Eagle/Loggers made enough shots not only to keep their lead but to extend it, holding on for the win.
"We are putting freshmen in positions that are tough, and they are ending up on the free-throw line in tough positions," Fischer said. "They are making enough free throws that we won tonight. Their exuberance is very high, and they want to win, but sometimes they take that exuberance one step too far. Instead of letting offense come to somebody, they force it. But tonight, it was good enough to win and keep the margin at the end."
Despite their youth, the Eagle/Loggers committed just seven turnovers the entire contest, while forcing Sherman County into 13 turnovers.
Mitchell/Spray was able to win despite getting outrebounded 45-26 by the taller Huskies.
Marquardt is the Eagle/Loggers' tallest player at 6-1, while the Huskies played three players who were 6-3 or taller.
Holmes finished with 11 rebounds for the Eagle/Loggers, while Carter pulled down seven boards despite not playing for most of the first half.
Christiansen had 10 rebounds for the Huskies, while 6-5 junior post Kole Martin pulled down nine.
"We have got to do a better job of blocking out," Fischer said. "A lot of times we had inside position, but we didn't do a good job of pushing back on it, and the officials didn't give us those calls because we didn't do the right thing. A guy can't be penalized because he is tall alone. We have to push him back and then create that contact so then they get on the back calls."
Carter, who guarded Martin for most of the second half, did not pick up a foul while playing virtually the entire second half.
"He backed off once he got in there again," Fischer said. "He played the rest of the game with three fouls, which was good. He's a big rebounder for us. He shoots the ball well and finishes well at the rim."
Holmes led all scorers with 16 points, including nine in the fourth quarter, while Clark finished with 15 points, with 12 of those coming in the second half.
Marquardt was also in double figures with 12, while freshman guard Carter Boise also had a good game, finishing with nine points.
"This was a big win for us," Holmes said. "Just hustling and keeping them from scoring by doubling down on the posts."
"Gary is pretty good at inspirational speaking in the locker room," Clark added. "He just tells us to push and never give up, and he's always encouraging us to work hard even if we are down."
Christiansen led the Huskies with 12 points, while Luke Stone added nine, and Martin chipped in with eight. However, Christiansen scored just two points in the second half as the Eagle/Loggers effectively double-teamed him.
The win improved the Eagle/Loggers' record to 4-5 in the league and 9-8 overall, while Sherman County fell to 9-11 overall and 5-5 in league play.
Mitchell/Spray hosts Horizon Christian tonight, then goes on the road to take on Ione/Arlington on Saturday.
"We have to take them one game at a time and try to knock them off and hope that we end up in the right spot," Fischer said. "I think that if we can get to the district tournament, we will be in good shape. Our kids have a lot of heart, and they play hard."
Mitchell/Spray 55, Sherman County 45
Saturday, Feb. 1
Sherman County 16 ii 8 10 — 45
Mitchell/Spray 13 13 10 9 — 55
Sherman County (45) —Owen Christiansen 12, Luke Stone 9, Kole Martin 8, Nick Riggs 7, Wade Fields 6, Jed Harrbon 2, Will James 1. Totals: 19 4-10 45.
Mitchell/Spray (55) — Tate Holmes 16, Nathan Clark 15, Jonas Marquardt 12, Carter Boise 9, Ignacio Lopez 3, Clint Rutherford, Calvin Bennett. Totals: 16 16-23 55.
Three-point goals — Sherman County: Martin 3, Riggs 1. Mitchell/Spray: Marquardt 4, Boise 2, Clark.
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