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Kelley lifts Wrens to quarterfinal win

Wrenshall senior Tyler Kelley goes up for a layup in the Wrens Section 7A playoff game against Carlton. Kelley had 20 points in the 67-61 Wrenshall victory. (Jamey Malcomb/News-Chronicle)

Wrenshall senior Tyler Kelley hit four free throws in the final 30 seconds and scored 20 points overall to lift Wrenshall to a 67-61 win over Carlton in the quarterfinals of the Section 7A tournament Saturday, March 10, in Hibbing.

Kelley fired his team up at halftime after a sloppy and slow start for the Wrens.

"Tyler was huge leading us in the second half," coach Jon Bartczak said. "He was in that locker room before I went down there telling those guys, 'We're not done with basketball this year.'"

Wrenshall fell behind 17-5 over the first nine minutes of the opening half. The Wrens struggled against Carlton's size, with Bulldog center Ben Soderstrom blocking or altering any shot in the paint. Wrenshall also committed a number of egregious turnovers in the opening minutes, but sluggish starts have been a recurring theme this season, according to Bartczak.

"Honestly, we are a second-half team," Bartczak said. "We came out against the zone defense and we can't even hold onto the ball. I think some of it is nerves and I think some of it is playing Carlton a third time ... I told them, do not come into this game thinking we are going to beat them. They are a completely different team — and it showed."

Soderstrom also hurt the Wrens on the offensive end, scoring 19 of his game-high 25 in the first half.

Wrenshall used an 8-1 run to cut into the lead midway through the half to cut into the Carlton lead and trailed 32-26 at halftime.

In the second half, Wrenshall came out ready to push the ball, using a 25-6 to build a 13-point lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game, but Carlton refused to go away. The Bulldogs scored seven straight points and went on a 20-8 run capped when Jackson Mickle hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to one at 59-58 with 4:30 remaining.

"When we came out of the locker room, we said we needed to push the ball more, and that's 100 percent our leadership. That's Tyler and Nick pushing the ball up the floor," Bartczak said. "When they are doing that, it drops and condenses that defense and then we can kick it out for those 3-pointers. If we're bringing up the ball slowly, that's a problem for us because we are a fast-break team."

Carlton would only manage one more field goal and Wrenshall would end the game on a 8-3 run topped off by Kelley's free throws to seal the win.

Wrenshall will face Ely, who beat Bigfork 77-46 earlier in the day to advance, in the Section 7A semifinals at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at Hibbing Memorial Arena.

Carlton 32-29—61

Wrenshall 26-41—67

Carlton — Jacob Santkuyl 7, Jackson Mickle 8, Mathew Hey 10, Scott Rousseau 2, Mathew Santkuyl 7, Chase Parker 2, Ben Soderstrom 25. Totals 24 7-17 61.

3-point goals — Mickle 2, M. Santkuyl, Soderstrom 3.

Wrenshall — Jared Kelley 5, Nick Mattson 11, Tyler Kelley 20, Chase Duncan 4, Eli Krisak 16, Randy Wimmer 11. Totals 25 9-16 67

3-point goals — J. Kelley, Mattson 3, Krisak 4.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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