Senior leadership guides Wrens to thrilling 54-50 upset against rival polar bearsDULUTH, Minn. – A 1995 section semifinal loss in the playoffs at the University of Minnesota Duluth marks the only time Wrenshall boys basketball head coach Joel Swanson faced off against the infamous head coach Bob McDonald and his boys from Chisholm.
By: By Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
DULUTH, Minn. – A 1995 section semifinal loss in the playoffs at the University of Minnesota Duluth marks the only time Wrenshall boys basketball head coach Joel Swanson faced off against the infamous head coach Bob McDonald and his boys from Chisholm.
On that same floor in the semifinal round of the playoffs 14 years later, Swanson and his Wrens will get another crack to knock off the Bluestreaks.
Back-to-back-to-back buckets by Wrenshall senior leaders Jordan Berglund, John Moder and David Conley – all with less than 30 seconds to go – got the Wrens back to the semifinals. They secured a thrilling 54-50 upset victory over rival Floodwood Saturday in the Section 7A quarterfinals at UMD.
The two evenly-matched Polar League foes that had split the season series against each other and were literally deadlocked in the standings at season’s end, came out of the gates quickly.
However, it was Berglund, Moder and Conley that led the No. 3-seeded Wrenshall (14-9 overall) attack, as their fast start guided them to a 26-18 advantage at half time.
After the break, it was the No. 2-seeded Polar Bears (14-11) that came out on fire, tallying the first eight points of the frame to tie the score at 26 early in the second half. As both rival opponents continued to slug it out, Floodwood found themselves leading by just a point, 50-49, with 37 seconds to go.
Swanson then took a timeout to draw up what would be the game-winning jumper by Berglund. Moder then stole the in-bounds pass and laid it in for a three-point lead with roughly 16 seconds remaining. After a Polar Bear turnover, it was Conley who hit the front-end of his two free-throws to secure the four-point victory and bring the Wrenshall faithful to their feet.
“It was just a battle today and the last three possessions the kids just stepped up,” Swanson said. “We knew the game was going to be back-and-forth and I’m just really proud of the boys and how they kept their composure. They deserve it.”
But the Wrens don’t use their offense to win games like most teams, they start with their defense.
“We have to work for everything we can get because we don’t score a lot of points, but our defense does a great job,” said Swanson. “It was a marathon today and it was just a big win for us.”
The Wrens’ defense has only given up 60 points once this season – to No. 1-seeded Cook County – and is ranked in the top-10 in the state.
Wrenshall – who defeated AlBrook before tipping the Polar Bears – was guided by Berglund, who racked up 15 points, while Moder followed with 12 points and senior center Josh Jacobson added 10 in the victory. Conley finished the game with eight points, while junior forward David Connor tallied seven and junior center Aaron Gustafson closed out the Wrens’ attack by sinking a bucket.
“Berglund is a great player and he really stepped up big and carried us today,” said Swanson. “Moder was also great from the point.”
It was sophomore guard Zach Heggedahl who paced Floodwood with a game-best 18 points, while his teammate Amos Blanton, a junior forward, dispatched 10 points in the season-ending loss.
The quarterfinal win means more than just a trip to the semifinals for Swanson.
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a team [mentioned] in the same sentence with Chisholm,” Swanson said. “It’s just nice to have Wrenshall back and playing this time of year.”
But having six of their nine losses come by less than four points this season, Swanson and his Wrens aren’t going to go down easy when they clash the Chisholm on that same UMD floor as back in 1995.
“We’re just going to give them all we got,” he said. “We got nothing to lose.”
The Wrens will collide with the state’s third-ranked Bluestreaks (27-1) tonight at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 at UMD.