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Strategic second half lifts Rebels over Bulldogs

It took a strong second-half effort, but in the end, the Moose Lake-Willow River boys basketball team found a way to come away with a 60-51 road win over the Carlton Bulldogs Thursday, Nov. 30.

Moose Lake-Willow River junior Adam Dragicevich and Carlton sophomore Benjamin Soderstrom take the opening tipoff in Friday's 60-51 Rebel win. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal
Moose Lake-Willow River junior Adam Dragicevich and Carlton sophomore Benjamin Soderstrom take the opening tipoff in Friday's 60-51 Rebel win. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal

It took a strong second-half effort, but in the end, the Moose Lake-Willow River boys basketball team found a way to come away with a 60-51 road win over the Carlton Bulldogs Thursday, Nov. 30.

The first half saw the Bulldogs slip out to a 29-28 lead, mostly due to the stellar play of first-team all-conference senior Mathew Hey, who finished the game with 23 points.

"We were able to obtain the lead due to the explosive play of our senior leader Matt Hey," Carlton coach Jeswa Harris said. "Matt's ability to shoot the 3-point shot and maneuvering through the defense allowed us to take the lead early."

While the Bulldogs were enjoying a lead at half, the Rebels coaches were scheming for ways to tame the Carlton offense and get more of the same from their own squad.

"We dug ourselves a hole in the first half, and part of that was our inexperience because four of our top seven didn't play any varsity basketball last season," Rebels coach Wes Cummins said. "The inexperience, coupled with Carlton's strong shooting and rebounding, got us down early. Kudos to Carlton because they killed us on the boards in the first half, especially on the offensive end, and Hey was also lights out in the first half."

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The Rebels answered the bell in the second half and managed to outscore the Bulldogs by 10 points to stake themselves to the victory.

"We made some defensive adjustments to try and slow Hey down and we did a better job on the boards," Cummins said. "We were also able to get out and run a bit in transition."

The Rebels got 15 points from Avery Kosloski and Ryan Barrett, and Bardy Watrin finished with 13 points.

"We had one of our best seasons in school history last year. With the departure of experience from last year's team, it is time for new players to lead the Bulldogs," Harris said. "That second half, we did a poor job of controlling the ball and missed some easy shots. We were outworked and out-rebounded."

Of the 23 points Hey scored, 15 came from the 3-point line. Ben Soderstrom also was in double-digits with 10 points for Carlton, while Jackson Mickle added seven points, Jacob Santkuyl scored six, Chase Parker added four points and Maleo Garcia Agui added a free throw.

"This was both team's first game, so as you can imagine, it was a bit sloppy," Cummins said. "Combined, there were close to 50 turnovers. We also knew coming in that Hey was a player and he did not disappoint. I felt we did a good job on him, but sometimes players just get in a groove. My message to the boys at halftime was we weathered the storm."

Free throws also turned out to be a big key in the game. ML-WR went 13-for-25 from the line, while Carlton went 1-of-4 from the stripe.

Adding to the point total for the Rebels were Michael Olson with eight points, Thomas Gulso with five, Adam Dragicevich with three and Mason Olson with one point.

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The Rebels will play Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Virginia. Carlton will host East Central.

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