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Golden Bears survive Agates comeback bid

Mesabi Tribune
Mesabi Tribune
 2021-12-31

EVELETH — Up 14 with about five minutes to play, the Eveleth-Gilbert boys’ basketball team looked as if they could cruise to the finish line in their Thursday afternoon tilt with Two Harbors.

The Agates, however, had other plans.

Cutting the deficit to just seven with a minute to play, Two Harbors used late-game defensive pressure that created turnovers in their favor. Ultimately, they were able to get within two of Eveleth-Gilbert on a last second shot by Trent Gomez, but that’s as close as it would get as the Bears managed to escape with the 63-61 win.

Gomez was the Agates’ X-factor from start to finish on Thursday, scoring a game-high 35 points to lead his squad. After a three-pointer from teammate Ethan Bopp to knot the game up early, Gomez scored the next 12 points for Two Harbors to give them the early 15-11 advantage.

The Bears’ Carter Mavec and AJ Roen hit some early buckets to keep the Bears in the game. Eveleth-Gilbert wanted to use their height advantage in the paint by getting the ball to six-foot-six senior Will Bittmann, but the Agates weren’t afraid of getting physical with the big man to keep the ball out of his hands.

An Isaiah Heitala three-pointer put Two Harbors up by six, 18-12, before the Bears came roaring back with Mavec picking up a steal and scoring on the other end before Griffin Krmpotich drove to the hoop and completed a three-point play after the foul.

Down one, Bittmann got his night started with a rebound and a putback before Mavec scored on the drive to put E-G up 21-18, forcing a timeout from Agates head coach Bill Anderson.

The high-low connection from Mavec to Bittmann finally started to click with the pair finding each other on a Bittmann bucket before Roen floated one up for two more, 25-18.

Gomez hit a pull-up jumper near the end of the half but Bittmann responded with a bucket in the paint to close things out, 27-20.

Two Harbors started the second half on a 9-2 run with Bopp hitting two threes and Gomez hitting one of his own to knot things up at 29 early. The Bears wouldn’t keep the game close, however, with Mavec scoring on the drive before Bittmann connected with Jaden Lang for a high-low play that turned into a bucket and another high-low play from Mavec that became a three-point play after the foul.

Bittmann and Mavec looked unstoppable for a time as the pair exchanged buckets to give the Bears a 12-point lead 49-37. Following a technical foul called on Two Harbors’ coach Anderson, Mavec sank two more. On the next possession down, Bittmann was fouled on the way up and hit two of his own free throws to make it a 53-37 game.

Gomez upped his game in the final stretch with the next four minutes becoming a highlight reel for the Two Harbors junior as he scored 12 of the Agates’ next 17 points to cut the deficit to eight, 62-54.

Less than a minute later trailing by six, 63-57, Gomez went coast-to-coast for another bucket before the Agates stole the ball back on the ensuing inbounds. Gomez put up a shot as the final buzzer rang that went in, but the Agates fell two points short of their comeback, giving the Bears the 63-61 win.

Gomez led for the Agates with a game-high 35. Bittmann poured in 28 for Eveleth-Gilbert while Mavec ended his day with 23.

Getting the win, Eveleth-Gilbert head coach Adam Roen said his team looked good for a time at the end of the first half and for most of the second half.

“We played very well as a team in the first and for a bulk of the second half. Towards the end things started to break down a bit with the pressure they were bringing but that’s what makes us stronger in the long run,” Roen said. “We’re going to keep working against that pressure and be ready to see more of it as we continue throughout the season.”

With the Agates applying late pressure that aligned with their physical man-to-man defense, Roen says the Bears were happy to use their height advantage in a zone defense while Two Harbors played the part of aggressor.

“They had that strong man defense the whole game and they had no issue pushing and shoving us. It worked out to our advantage to stay in our zone defense and let them foul us on offense.”

In terms of free throws, the Bears went to the line 28 times (making 16) compared to just seven for the Agates.

“We need to make more free throws in the long run but that’s something we can work on. Teams are going to play very physical against us and we need to be ready for that moving forward.”

Holding on to the slim lead at the end, Roen said it’s not in his team’s best interest to let solid teams creep back in late like they have allowed recently.

“We need to push in practice when we’re tired so we can stay strong in a game and be ready for these teams that are going to apply the pressure like Two Harbors did. I tip my hat to them. They did not give up no matter how far they were down and they almost had us.”

Eveleth-Gilbert is off until next Friday when they travel to Mesabi East. The following day they’ll take on Bigfork in Minneapolis at the Target Center.

TH 20 41 — 61

EG 27 36 — 63

Two Harbors: Ethan Bopp 12, Trent Gomez 35, Kyler Pitkanen 7, Cam Nelson 4, Isaiah Heitala 3; Three pointers: Bopp 4, Gomez 3, Pitkanen 1, Heitala 1; Free throws: 6-7; Total fouls: 23; Fouled out: Bopp.

Eveleth-Gilbert: Carter Mavec 23, Griffin Krmpotich 7, AJ Roen 4, Carter Flannigan, Will Bittmann 28; Three pointers: Mavec 3; Free throws: 16-28; Total fouls: 11; Fouled out: none.

Ashby 63,

North Woods 55

At St. John’s

AHS 25 38 — 63

NW 25 30 — 55

Ashby: Hunter Norby 10, Torin Olson 5, Jacob Cook 33, Carter Spanger 6, Brodie Ecker 8, Sam Sorenson 1; Three pointers: Olson 1, Cook 4, Spanger 2; Free throws: 10-16; Total fouls: 15; Fouled out: none.

North Woods: Brenden Chiabotti 4, Jared Chiabotti 18, TJ Chiabotti 12, Davis Kleppe 9, Jonah Burnett 3, Alex Hartway 6, Sean Morrison 3; Three pointers: J. Chiabotti 1, T. Chiabotti 1, Kleppe 3; Free throws: 4-10; Total fouls: 13; Fouled out: none.

Cass Lake-Bena 81,

Mountain Iron-Buhl 64

At St. Cloud,

CLB 45 36 — 81

MIB 28 36 — 64

Cass Lake-Bena: Kaiden Ureitia 4, Kayden Lee 24, Dominic Fairbanks 19, Aiden White 8, Kingsley WhiteBird 7, Trayvaughn Lee 2, Leroy Fairbanks 17; Three pointers: Lee 1, D. Fairbanks 1, WhiteBird 1, L. Fairbanks 1; Free throws: 11-13; Total fouls: 13; Fouled out: none.

Mountain Iron-Buhl: Asher Zubich 19, Cooper Salinas 2, Mason Clines 2, Jeffrey Kayfes 2, Josh Holmes 10, Nik Jesch 26, MiCaden Clines 3; Three pointers: Zubich 3, Holmes 2, Jesch 5; Free throws: 10-12; Total fouls: 13; Fouled out: none.

Wednesday’s Game

Ely 63,

Bigfork 37

At Ely, the Ely boys’ basketball team came away champions of their own holiday tournament Wednesday night, defeating Bigfork 63-37.

The Timberwolves led by nine at the break but turned up the defensive intensity in the second half to outscore the Huskies 32-15 in the final 18 minutes.

Joey Bianco led all scorers with 36 points for Ely. Mason Davis added 10. Bigfork was led by Bradley Haley’s 14 points.

I thought our defense was strong all night,” Ely coach Tom McDonald said of the game. “I thought we got out to their shooters and limited them pretty well.”

McDonald also praised the offensive performance from Bianco.

“Joey really went to the basket well for us and made things happen when he did that.”

Ely (6-2) will travel to North Woods next Friday.

BHS 22 15 — 37

Ely 31 32 — 63

Bigfork: Jackson Lovdahl 7, Austin Johnson 2, Dalton Johnson 2, Colton Rahier 1, Bradley Haley 14, Jhace Pearson 8, Matt Vosika 2, Chase Jacobson 1; Three pointers: Lovdahl 1; Free throws: 8-15; Total fouls: 12; Fouled out: none.

Ely: Jake Cochran 1, Joey Bianco 36, Jack Davies 3, Gunnar Hart 4, Mason Davis 10, Caid Chittum 2, Gavin Marshall 2, Jason Kerntz 1, Aaron Anderson 4; Three pointers: Bianco 1, Davies 1; Free throws: 13-19; Total fouls: 11; Fouled out: none.

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