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Minnesota captures third annual Border Battle, 3-2

01/15/2009, 1:09pm CST
By Mark Miller

The third annual Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Border Battle, held last Saturday at Owatonna High School in Minnesota, included five outstanding games that featured countless lead changes, terrific individual performances and a near monumental upset.

Minnesota dropped the first two games of the day before rallying to win the final three contests and claim its first series victory in the highly attended event. In the 15 games played over the three years the Border Battle has been held, Wisconsin has won eight games.

The Border Battle moves back to Wisconsin next year and is tentatively scheduled for Eau Claire Memorial on Jan. 23, 2010. In addition to the host school, other state entrants tentatively include Eau Claire North, Eau Claire Regis, Fall Creek and Blair-Taylor.

Here are some observations and coaches’ comments from the five games played at Owatonna:

Benton 81, Bethlehem Academy 73

The Zephyrs made just 4-of-21 attempts from beyond the three-point line in a 49-45 overtime loss to Barneveld last Thursday. Finding the range from long distance was not a problem Saturday against a very good Bethlehem Academy squad.

Benton made a school-record tying 13 three-point goals and played well on both ends of the court en route to its convincing victory.

At one point in the second half when the threes were dropping at an alarming rate for Benton, Bethlehem Academy coach Franz Boelter looked down at Benton coach Jim Blaine and jokingly pleaded for the Zephyrs to miss a shot.

Four players made triples for the Zephyrs, with senior twins Jordan and Connor Hendricks each draining four shots from beyond the arc. Benton finished 13-of-29 from three-point range and had assists on 27 of its 29 baskets with senior point guard Kane Hoffmann leading the way with 12.

“That’s us,” Blaine said in a joyous locker room after the contest. “That’s how we want to play. The only word that comes to mind is freely. There was a flow to what we were doing. Our passing was much better today.”

Benton entered the season ranked No. 1 among Division 4 schools by the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook, but the Zephyrs hadn’t clicked on all cylinders while compiling a 9-2 mark entering the contest against the 12-1 Cardinals.

But Benton’s play in the Border Battle more closely resembled its play from last summer when it continually knocked off Division 1 schools in weekend tournaments.

“I had three things on the chalkboard before the game and I think our kids accomplished all three,” Blaine said. “We wanted to play with confidence, we wanted to represent the state of Wisconsin and we wanted to be fearless out on the court. We needed that win. And not just the win, but the way we won.”

Sophomore Matt Savatski led the way for Benton with 23 points, followed by Connor Hendricks with 16, Hoffmann with 15 and Jordan Hendricks with 14. Freshman David Neis played well off the bench with nine points and junior Michael Doressler pitched in a couple of baskets while playing tough under the basket.

Connor and Jordan Hendricks continue to move up on Benton’s all-time scoring list with Connor sitting at 944 and Jordan at 926. 

Manitowoc Roncalli, 91, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 83, 4 OT

In a classic four-overtime battle between two strong programs, Manitowoc Roncalli pulled out an improbable victory over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville entered the contest 13-0 and features the talented brother combination of junior Clay Olstad and sophomore Cole Olstad. Both Olstads are being pursued by scholarship schools. P-E-M previously defeated three Class AAAA schools – equivalent to Wisconsin’s Division 1 -- on the way to winning the Rochester Rotary Classic over the Christmas break.

Don’t look now, but perennial Division 3 powerhouse Roncalli appears to be rounding into form after losing three of its first seven games. The Jets won their fourth straight contest behind an incredible performance from game-MVP Ben Stelzer.

Stelzer, a 6-foot-0 sophomore guard currently ranked No. 13 among state prospects in the class of 2011, matched a career-high with 36 points to lead Roncalli. Stelzer overcame a slow start with a barrage of three-pointers in the second half. He canned seven triples in the game and, more importantly, played with as much poise and defensive toughness in the final minutes of the fourth overtime as he did in the first few minutes of the contest.

“I thought Ben continued to hunt for shots, even after he missed some early in the game,” Roncalli coach Joe Rux said. “He kept taking the big shots.”

And, he kept hitting them. Several times near the end of regulation and overtime, Stelzer stepped up and knocked down a huge triple.

Stelzer certainly got plenty of help from his teammates.

Senior Adam Koss finished with 24 points, blocked several shots and did an outstanding job on the glass for the Jets, who advanced to the WIAA Division 3 State Tournament in 2005, 2006 and 2007. 

Senior Jake Ledvina contributed 12 points and strong defense for much of the 52-minutes of play (two 18-minute halves and four four-minute overtimes). Ledvina guarded P-E-M standout Cole Olstad and held the promising 6-3 sophomore to just seven points.

Junior Travis Klingeisen played strong defense and directed the Jets’ offense from his point-guard position and sophomore Mike Gresl came off the bench to hit a couple of big three-pointers en route to eight points.

“This is certainly another step in our progression as a team,” Rux said. “That is a team that would be in the top three in our state in Division 3. The kids are playing better and we are starting to develop some depth. I thought the kids did a great job of playing defense down the stretch.”

Minneapolis DeLaSalle 73, Sussex Hamilton 65, OT

DeLaSalle rallied late in regulation and then slowly pulled away from the Chargers in overtime to notch Minnesota’s first victory of the day.

It appeared Hamilton was in good shape with a seven-point lead late in the contest, but missed free throws and questionable calls went against the Chargers, who fell to 7-5 with the disappointing setback.

The biggest call against Hamilton sidelined junior standout Kameron Cerroni for the game as he was whistled for his fifth foul late in regulation when it appeared teammate Brian Gryszkiewicz actually committed the infraction.

Without Cerroni on the floor, the Chargers’ offense slowed considerably.

“We had our chances to win,” Hamilton coach Andy Cerroni said. “You have to make free throws and take care of the ball at the end. Those are things we are usually good at. In the last two minutes of regulation, we just couldn’t get anything going offensively. On the other end, we had three guys with four fouls and that didn’t help. They were able to get some things going to the rim.”

Kameron Cerroni led Hamilton with 22 points while junior Brett Meinecke added 17 and senior Justin Rupnow contributed 16.

Junior Jalen Jaspers, a rugged 6-3 wing player, scored 27 points to pace DeLaSalle, which improved to 6-3. Athletic sophomore forward Jonah Travis hurt Hamilton on the glass late in the contest and finished with 10 points.

Henry Sibley 57, Kaukauna 55

Henry Sibley avoided a huge upset when a late-second three-point shot by Kaukauna’s Jordan Giordana rolled off the rim.

Though Kaukauna lost to the second-ranked team in Minnesota, the Ghosts controlled the tempo of the game, played stellar defense throughout the entertaining contest and twice rallied from 10-point deficits in the final 10 minutes of the contest. 

Wisconsin recruit Mike Bruesewitz, an athletic and extremely active 6-7 forward, was sidelined with foul trouble for much of the contest, though he was certainly on the floor at crunch time.

Playing with four personal fouls and the scored tied at 55, Bruesewitz took an inbounds pass, dribbled over the half-court line, went around a screen set by a teammate and calmly sank the game-winning shot from the left elbow with 4.5 seconds left.

Kaukauna immediately called a timeout and set up a play for Giordana, who led the Ghosts with 25 points. Giordana caught the inbounds pass, dribbled over half-court and pulled up for a runner from just beyond the three-point line. His shot hit the backboard and then rolled off the rim as time expired.

Tag(s): Border Battle