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Area Male Athlete: S-M's Smith creating in the clutch

If Gavin Smith is a team's second offensive option, then the odds for success are high. The Staples-Motley Cardinals have turned those odds into an 8-5 record, including last week's big 71-62 victory over Detroit Lakes. Smith recorded 23 points, ...

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If Gavin Smith is a team's second offensive option, then the odds for success are high.

The Staples-Motley Cardinals have turned those odds into an 8-5 record, including last week's big 71-62 victory over Detroit Lakes.

Smith recorded 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists and six steals against the Mid-State Conference foe. He shot 8-of-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free throw line.

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Gavin Smith

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Year: Junior

School: Staples-Motley

Sport: Basketball

Position: Guard

Highlights: Finished with 23 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals against Detroit Lakes.

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"We had a week to prepare for them and all through practices we worked on closing out on shooters, boxing out and rebounding and pushing the ball up," said Smith. "Then we worked on executing our plays. Coach's exact words were, 'We're going to come into the game and it's not going to be a blowout, but it's going to be close so we need to execute.' The whole week leading up to DL we did scenarios being able to keep a lead and then during the game we just executed."

The victory was S-M's first against Detroit Lakes since the 2009-2010 season-an 11-game losing streak. "We anticipated that Detroit Lakes was going to take away Andrew Israelson," said Cardinals head coach Micheal Poncelet. "Izzy has been our leading scorer all season. And our first game against DL, he got off quick and they started doubling him and finding ways to take him away. That's what they did and that's a lot of how they beat us in the first game.

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"Gavin has improved so much since the beginning of the season that he's really become option 1A in our offense from the outside anyway. We've got two guys inside who are playing pretty well, too. We knew they were going to take away Andrew so we did a lot of things to get Gavin the ball. He's got such great court vision that he helped get our big guys involved. He was just really doing a lot of creating in that game."

Smith has created a number of headaches for opposing defenses this season. The 5-foot-11 junior is averaging 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4.9 steals per game. He's shooting 51 percent from the field, including 33 percent from 3-point. He's hitting 58 percent from the free throw line.

"During the DL game, all I remember is I made a 3 right away and then I missed one so I just told myself to chill out on that so I don't make coach P mad," said Smith. "I looked up (at the scoreboard) and I was at 15 points at one point. I figured that was good enough so I felt I should be dishing it off. I didn't need to keep taking it and then I looked up again and I was at 23 points.

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Gavin Smith on expectations before his junior season: "After we graduated three starters from last year's team, I really thought Andrew (Israelson) was just going to shoot the ball the whole time this year. So I figured Andrew would average 30 points a game and I would just get really mad at him for shooting all the time. I think everyone figured that's what was going to happen, but Andrew has figured out his role."

--- "The steals thing, I don't know, it kind of happens a lot every game. I don't know how. The ball just kind of bounces my way it seems like even if I don't do anything."

Smith led the Cardinals with 21 points in their 70-53 loss to Pequot Lakes Tuesday.

As a sophomore, Smith averaged 6.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 3.0 steals. Poncelet said the work Smith put in between the two seasons has made him a threat from anywhere on the court.

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"He's far and away the hardest-working kid that I've ever coached anywhere," said Poncelet. "I've had some players go on to play at pretty high Division I schools and he outworks all those kids. My thought in seeing his improvement from the end of the season last year to the beginning of the season this year, I knew it was going to be hard for other teams to deal with him. He just has that take-over ability.

"I knew that he was going to be a big factor in our offense. For him, the big factor was, can he get better at shooting and can he get better at free throws. He wasn't a very good free throw shooter last year and that's something he spent a lot of time on as well as his outside shot. That's really allowed him to be a multi-tool player."

 

Other notable performances:

Basketball: Ridge Hunstad, Pillager, scored 21 points against Verndale.

Nathan Davis, Aitkin, finished with 21 points and seven rebounds against Isle.

Thomas Kornbaum, Little Falls, scored 23 points against Mora and against Milaca.

Ryan Foehrenbacher, Pillager, finished with 27 points and eight rebounds against Bertha-Hewitt.

Aaron Weber, Pierz, finished with 22 points and eight rebounds against Eden Valley-Watkins.

Abe Imdieke, Lake Region, finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds against St. Cloud Christian.

Trey Skeesick, Staples-Motley, scored 21 points against Detroit Lakes.

C.J. Borleis, Pequot Lakes, scored 22 points against Pierz.

Noah Gindorff, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds against Duluth Marshall and

Hockey: Justin Pekula, Little Falls, finished with 23 saves in a 3-0 shutout of Princeton

Wrestling: Nate Adkins, Joe Harrison and Isaac Manthei, Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus, finished the week 6-0.

Alex Erpelding and Owen Bjerga, Staples-Motley, won individual titles at the Parkers Prairie Invite.

Justin Jenks and Billy Winkelman, Little Falls, won individual titles at the Cambridge Invite.

Jared Novak and Noah Landrus, Aitkin, won individual titles at the Mora Invite.

 

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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