Area Male Athlete: Pillager's Litke lighting it up lately
Tristan Litke is making all the right choices.
The senior has been clutch with his decision making, helping the Pillager Huskies to two important Park Region Conference victories.
During the Huskies 78-75 win over Menahga Feb. 6, Litke finished with 28 points, six rebounds and two steals. He shot 6-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-7 from 3-point, and 7-of-8 from the line.
“That was just a real steady performance throughout that game,” said Pillager head coach Erik Uselman. “Down the stretch, he had two possessions late in the game where he really stood out.
“Earlier in the game, he was in the mode of taking it to the rack 100 percent. There was one possesion late in the game, with the score close, where I thought for sure he was going to take it all the way to the rack. Instead, he backed it out and it was just a real key moment in the game. We were able to run our offense, take off 30 or 40 seconds off the clock and we scored anyway. It was just a senior making a real smart, mature decision.”
Litke tallied 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and two assists in a 66-64 loss to Staples-Motley Feb. 7 and then keyed Pillager’s 26-point, second-half comeback to beat Bertha-Hewitt 71-62 Feb. 11.
“We all felt pretty down after the first half,” said Litke. “We came out in the second half knowing we had to put something together. We just started making our shots and it spiraled right back to where we wanted it to go.
“A game like that showed us what we’re capable of. It gave us a ton of confidence and desire to put everything together for the playoffs.”
Litke scored 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 7-of-9 from the line. He added four steals, three assists and two rebounds.
Through Pillager’s first 20 games, Litke is averaging 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.9 steals a game from his forward position. He’s shooting 47 percent from the field, 31 percent from 3-point and 66 percent from the line.
“He’s a guy that’s going to give you 100 percent all the time,” said Uselman. “Defensively, he’ll generally be assigned to be one of our trapping guys in our full-court press or half-court zone trap. He’s athletic and fast enough to do that. He’s not a big guy, 5-foot-10, but he’s physically a strong kid and just one of those guys who can cover a court.”
This is Litke’s third year on the varsity, but first year starting. While his scoring has been a pleasant surprise for the Pillager coaches, Litke said he’s always been confident in his ability to get to the rim. It’s his improved decision making that has helped him the most.
“During the offseason me and my friends all worked on our shooting and on the individual aspects of our skills,” said Litke. “The thing I needed to work on most myself was making decisions during the fast-paced, high-rate of speed of the game. I’ve always been confident in my scoring ability. It was just a matter of finding those times and knowing when to score and gaining confidence in finding those times. I think I’ve done that the last couple of games.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Ryder Hunstad, Pillager, finished with 23 points against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Jake Lynn, Aitkin, finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds against Onamia.
Jared Reintiz, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 38 points against Sebeka.
Zach Struss, Pine River-Backus, finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds against Park Rapids.
Riley Jacobs, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds against Crookston and 29 points against Roseau.
Hockey: Nick Blanchette, Northern Lakes, finished with three goals and an assist against Wadena-Deer Creek.
Wrestling: Logan Kapphahn and Trysten Ross, Little Falls, finished the week 4-0.
Tyler Bare, Noah Landrus, Jerod Novak, Chris Jackson, Jonah Perrine, Dan Christian and Jordan Fisk, Aitkin, won Great River Conference individual titles.