Area Boys Basketball: Patriots’ hot shooting knocks off Aitkin in opening round
PEQUOT LAKES — The 3-pointers kept coming and coming for the No. 4 seed Pequot Lakes Patriots as they defeated the No. 5 Aitkin Gobblers 72-48 in the opening round of the Section 7-2A playoffs Thursday, March 5.
The Patriots nailed 11-of-17 3-pointers in the game, including going 8-of-12 in the first half. Six different Pequot players hit 3s in the first half as they jumped out to a 29-17 lead to start.
“We got off to a good start,” Pequot Lakes head coach Rich Spiczka said. “Offensively we made some good looks early, and we had some guys make some big shots.”
Aitkin’s Mannie Ukutegbe and Hunter Nissen were the only Gobblers to score in the first half and they each had 12 points as the Patriots led 39-24 at the break.
The 3-point shooting and defensive pressure were a deadly combination for the Patriots in building their big lead.
Pequot Lakes 72, Aitkin 48
Key: The 3-point shooting by the Patriots gave them a big cushion they would not release.
Overall: PL 19-8, Ait 15-12.
Next: No. 4 Pequot Lakes vs. No. 1 Esko at University of Minnesota-Duluth 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7.
“We just did not have our shot going tonight and the full court pressure and their pressure defense was too much for us,” Aitkin head coach Kerry Hopperstad said. “They are deeper and they can keep running guys at us and we kind of just went flat.”
Aitkin switched up defenses in the first half. They went from man-to-man to 2-3 zone and back to man-to-man with a mix of full court pressure. Nevertheless, the Pequot Lakes offense kept coming.
“We are hard to guard if you are going to get up and get into us,” Spiczka said. “I think you have to give us space just because we do a good job of getting downhill. We have some quick dynamic players, so that was the biggest piece. Of the 12 3-pointers we shot in the first half they were all good ones, and when you shoot good ones, more of them go in than not.”
In the second half, Pequot Lakes’ guard Bode Magnuson opened it up with a 3-pointer. He hit another 3-pointer a few minutes later and the Patriots’ lead stretched to 21.
Ukutegbe continued his dominance inside for the Gobblers and finished with a game-high 22 points in his final high school game.
“Mannie as a basketball player is unbelievable, but he is a better person and leader,” Hopperstad said. “He’s brought a culture to our basketball that’s hopefully going to live on because he gives 100%, but he’s a teammate. Whatever school he goes to is going to get one (heck) of a basketball player.”
Despite Ukutegbe’s big game, Spiczka still felt his team did a good job of defending him.
“It’s as well as we played defensively in awhile,” Spiczka said. “We had to try to limit Mannie. Even if we put two guys on him, I still think he could out-jump us and get to the basketball, so we talked about pressuring the ball and making them turn it over before they have a chance to look in there.”
Nissen contributed 17 points for Aitkin, but the Gobblers were unable to find a third scorer as no one else scored more than three.
Meanwhile, Pequot Lakes featured four different players in double figures with Alex Morgan leading the way with 18. Korey Jackson nailed four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. Ryan Monahan scored 13 points and Magnuson tallied 12.
“We don’t run a lot of sets through one guy,” Spiczka said. “We play more motion, spread it out and let plays happen and see who’s there. The big thing today was we had to move their big guy (Ukutegbe) around.”
Pequot Lakes advances to play No. 1 seed Esko in the Section 7-2A Quarterfinals 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
The Patriots beat Esko 69-59 at home Feb. 4.
“If we can play defensively like we played tonight — being engaged with all our guys and that sort of thing I like our chances,” Spiczka said, “Obviously, we got the best of them the first time this year, but that doesn’t mean anything anymore. They are the section champs until someone beats them.”
For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2TABIhK .
Aitkin 24 24 — 48
Pequot Lakes 39 33 — 72
Logan Gabrio 1, Jon Blanchette 3, Joe Cummings, Mannie Ukutegbe 22, Hunter Nissen 17, Owen Hagen 2, Kade Hopperstad 3. FG 15-46 (33%), FT 14-18 (78%). 3-point 4-17 (24%).
Bode Magnuson 12, Daltin Ackerman 3, Alex Morgan 18, Korey Jackson 14, Ryan Monahan 13, Evin Ruud 3, Eli Laposky 7, Sam Rysavy 2. FG 22-47 (47%), FT 17-27 (63%). 3-point (65%).