Soaring Eagles find success

HANNAHVILLE – The Hannahville and Maplewood Baptist boys’ basketball teams appear to be getting used to meeting each other in the championship game of the Northern Lights League tournament.

They met in the title game for the third consecutive time Saturday and like the previous two years, this one was a barnburner.

Senior Marty Thorbahn, who was fouled while grabbing an offense rebound with 9.2 second left in Saturday’s contest, calmly sank a pair of free throws as the Soaring Eagles then hung on for a 51-49 triumph.

“I wasn’t going to give up on my rebound,” said Thorbahn. “I was confident in my free throws. Although, I was nervous going into the fourth quarter. I knew I just had to get into the mindset of playing smart.”

Hannahville also won last year’s title game 58-52 in overtime and Maplewood won 57-56 on a last-second shot two years ago.

On Saturday, it became a matter of playing solid defense in the closing moments for the Soaring Eagles as they prevented the Black Bears from winning or forcing overtime.

“We wanted to make sure we kept between them and the hoop, and we kept them out at the 3-point line,” said senior Stephen Keezer, who finished with nine points. “Maplewood doesn’t back down and that’s what I like about playing them. It was real exciting for us when time ran out.”

Hannahville grabbed a 40-28 advantage on a layup by sophomore Justin Larson with four minutes, 55 seconds left in the third stanza.

The Soaring Eagles then went nearly six minutes without scoring as the Black Bears rallied to tie the score at 40.

Hannahville regained the lead (42-40) a minute into the fourth frame when sophomore Tallen Boda drained an 18-foot jump shot from the right wing.

“That was a big boost,” said Thorbahn. “It was scary when they tied the score, but we never gave up. It was a great game.”

Sophomore Justin Larson led Hannahville (12-5) with 15 points. Senior Seth Williams had 14.

“It was intense,” said Williams. “They know us and we know them. After the last time-out (with the scored tied at 49), I felt confident because of the way our defense was playing. I think that was a big key in the game.”

Junior Elijah May paced the Black Bears (12-6) with 19 points. Chris Lucas added 10.

“I thought we played a strong second half,” said Maplewood coach Steven May. “At halftime, we talked about playing a little harder, especially on defense. But give them credit. They played hard. It always seems to come down to the wire when we play these guys. We did a good job shutting Williams down in the second half and that’s what got us back in the game.”

Maplewood committed 24 turnovers against Hannahville’s tight man-to-man defense. The Soaring Eagles had 11.

“That’s why playing good defense is such a key,” said Hannahville coach Seth Miller. “We committed ourselves to playing defense and felt our offense would take care of itself. We tried to deny Elijah May the ball because we knew he was their best ballhandler. This was a real good learning experience for us because there was a huge amount of pressure out there. We got some pressure games under our belt before this, which I think helped us today.”

Hannahville reached the title contest by eliminating Grand Marais 67-48.

Williams scored 30 points and Larson had 13 for the Soaring Eagles, who trailed 29-20 early in the third quarter.

The Soaring Eagles visit Bark River-Harris for their Class D district opener March 4.

Junior Leroy Ward-Harbaum hit 14 points and senior Jesse Ross had 13 for the Polar Bears (14-5).