Area Male Athlete: Aitkin's Ehnstrom joins elite group
He needed five and scored 10.
Those 10 points helped Nathan Ehnstrom become the fourth Aitkin Gobblers boy to reach 1,000 career points.
Ehnstrom’s milestone came in Aitkin’s 61-48 victory over Hinckley-Finlayson Feb. 4.
The four-year varsity player and three-year starter joined Nick Sundholm (1,292), John Tibbetts (1,048) and Mike Hillman (1,047) on Aitkin’s 1,000 point list.
Ehnstrom’s 999th and 1,000th points came on free throws.
“Right away in the game I was trying to just think of not getting it and not focus on it,” said Ehnstrom. “I figured it would come and once I got into the game I made my first shot and then I started thinking, ‘I can get his right away.’ It didn’t happen at all that way. It felt like there was so much pressure.
“There was a lot of people there, which was awesome and they were all excited, but thank God my teammates stepped up when I was struggling. That was the only reason we won the game. And that’s what I was really trying to focus on. I just wanted to win the game. Then once it happened, I really just tried to take it all in. Then I wanted to take that momentum and put it toward the game.”
Ehnstrom tallied 14 points and seven assists in the Gobblers 72-47 victory over East Central Jan. 28.
He followed that with a 28-point performance in Aitkin’s 64-55 win over Isle Feb. 2 to set up his big night against Hinckley-Finlayson.
“He’s a very resilient kid,” said Aitkin’s first-year head coach Jordan Moss. “He knows he is going to get the other team’s best defensive player and possibly the top two best defenders. He takes what they give him. If they’re going to pressure him hard, he’s worked on his quickness and he’s gotten a lot faster off the dribble so he’s able to try and create some space by attacking the hoop. He knows he’s going to get double teamed and might even get triple teamed when he gets the ball, but he’s willing to help the team however he can. If that means creating a double team and then finding an open teammate he’ll do that.”
And Ehnstrom’s teammates have been stepping up around him. Despite not having a senior on the roster, the Gobblers have won five of their last seven games. That’s been the exciting part for Ehnstrom, who last season averaged 14.2 points a game and added 116 rebounds, 35 steals and 63 assists, but the Gobblers finished just 9-18 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
This season Ehnstrom is averaging 18.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 3.3 assists per game. He’s shooting 41 percent from the field, 39 percent from 3-point and 82-percent from the line. The Gobblers have already won seven games with eight more to play.
“We’re playing more team basketball,” said Ehnstrom. “Our posts and other guards have really stepped up scoring wise and defensive wise. I think if we can keep that up we’ll be able to keep playing well.”
Ehnstrom said he enjoys making the nice pass to an open teammate. Moss said his veteran is good at it and other things besides scoring.
“In the past, he’s been asked to do a lot to carry the team with his shooting,” said Moss. “He’s learned a lot and understands he needs to take what the defense gives him. He knows if he can create open looks for his teammates by drawing double teams then that will help him get more open later. That’s really been the case the last five or six games.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Dallas Ehrmantraut, Verndale, finished with 26 points against Bertha-Hewitt.
Beau Howard, Pine River-Backus, finished with 21 points against Menahga.
Daniel Newton, Lake Region, finished with 21 points against Poplar Christian and added 16 against Calvin Christian.
EJ Ziegler, Pillager, finished with 26 points, 19 rebounds and eight blocked shots against Browerville.
Caleb Baker, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 29 points against Cass Lake-Bena.
Hockey: Ben Moe, Northern Lakes, finished with two goals and two assists against Cambridge.
Christian Berg, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with three goals against Bagley-Fosston.
Bridger Pettit, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with two goals and four assists against Bagley-Fosston.
Wrestling: Dillon Card, Verndale, won the 182-pound title at the Park Region Conference championship.