Rebels rise over BombersThe Rebels defeated rival Barnum 64-50 in a Polar League boys basketball bout Tuesday night at Barnum High School.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
BARNUM – Every now and then, junior Jake Disterhaupt said he’ll throw down a windmill slam or catch an alley-oop dunk from one of his Moose Lake-Willow River basketball teammates after practice.
Yet come game time, the high-flyer prefers the two-handed method best.
“It’s still all about getting two points,” said Disterhaupt. “I love dunking, but in a game, I always just go up with two hands to be safe.”
Disterhaupt’s signature flush brought fans to their feet, highlighting the Rebels’ second-half surge to lead ML-WR past rival Barnum 64-50 in a Polar League boys basketball bout Tuesday night at Barnum High School.
Seemingly having a quiet evening, Disterhaupt stole the ball at midcourt and raced down the left sideline, executing an electric two-handed dunk to put the Rebels up 51-37 with half a dozen minutes left to play.
“Anytime I get a steal on that side I just think ‘dunk,’” said the 6-foot-1 forward, who has a vertical leap between 35-38 inches. “It’s harder to block than a layup, and it’s something not hard for me to do.”
“He’s a special athlete,” ML-WR Coach Neil Dickenson said.
Disterhaupt’s crowd-pleasing slam came at the right time, as it capped off a Rebels’ 11-2 run and gave ML-WR a 16-point lead – their largest of the night – which they never surrendered after that.
Before Disterhaupt’s dunk, the Rebels pulled away from the arch rival Bombers with a late first-half, early second-half stretch during which they scored 13 of 15 points and turned a one-point advantage into 12 in the blink of an eye.
“A lot of our shots just didn’t fall for us,” said Dickenson of the first half where they led Barnum just 24-18 in the low-
scoring stanza. “But I told those kids, ‘Just keep shooting and they are going to fall.’ Thank goodness they did.”
Dickenson said he has been pleased with his team’s play thus far, despite ML-WR (7-4) having more losses this winter than all of last year.
“I think we lost a couple games that we shouldn’t have,” Dickenson said, “but tonight was a big win for us. We’ve got lots to work on, but a win like this is one you can build off of. This has been our biggest one yet. We just came ready to play.”
Slapping his hand on his knee with only seconds left Tuesday, Rich Newman thought otherwise of his Bombers outside their locker room.
“I thought our kids played scared,” the longtime Barnum coach said. “I thought we could win this game, but I think our kids played not to lose, instead of playing to win. We’re a way better team than we showed tonight.”
Barnum had early leads of 1-0 and 7-6, but that was it for the entire evening.
“It’s all on us, we didn’t come ready to play,” Newman continued. “[ML-WR] was bigger than us. I think their game plan was to push us around, and it worked. They jammed us up and we didn’t match it. That’s just how the game goes sometimes.”
In their first home and Polar League loss of the season, Barnum (8-2) was led by senior Jake Naslund’s game-best 20 points, while fellow senior Bobby Minkkinen added 17 in a game where Newman said his boys didn’t shoot particularly well.
ML-WR senior Taylor Mattison said he likes the road venue.
“This is one of my favorite places to play,” said Mattison of the Barnum gymnasium, where the 6-foot-6 center set the Rebels’ all-time career shot block record at 110 during Tuesday’s game. “It’s always so loud in here. It’s always exciting in here.”
And although Mattison said the four-time defending Polar League champion and defending section runner-up Rebels aren’t quite at full strength yet, he said he and his teammates are turning the corner these days after football and all of their injuries.
“Some schools have three, four, sometimes five more weeks of basketball practice before we do,” Mattison said. “Going all the way to the Prep Bowl takes a lot out of us, but we’re finally starting to gel. It has taken time, but we’ve been patient and are continuing to work on things. We’ll get there.”
Senior forward Caleb Koecher led the Rebels with 17 points, while both Mattison and Disterhaupt added 15 each, and sophomore Ezra Szczyrbak added 10 in ML-WR’s fourth straight win.
“This is a very balanced team; we have good shooters, good ball-handlers, big strong posts, kids who can jump and kids who can rebound,” Disterhaupt said. “And as we go, we’re just going to get a lot better.”
One slam dunk at a time.