Defense wins day for Jets
POWERS – If defense wins championships, the North Central Jets made quite the investment Wednesday night as they vanquished their rival, the Carney-Nadeau Wolves on their home court 65-54.
Easy as it is to stare wide-eyed at the dazzling offensive display the Jets have put on on a nightly basis, defense has been the team’s calling card nearly all season, but the Jets saved their best for Wednesday night in this Class D district semifinal game.
They contested every shot from the perimeter, and despite the Wolves getting solid looks, the shots didn’t fall. They clogged the lanes when Carney drove inside and swarmed like circling sharks around the net clamping down on any Wolves who dared to drive.
“Our defense all night was steady. They were consistent, they got their hands on the three point shots,” said North Central coach Adam Mercier. “They followed the game plan and the kids stayed disciplined.”
It all added up to an anemic 18-point half for Carney-Nadeau, amongst its lowest scoring half of the past three years.
Wade Schetter, playing in the final game of his high school career had just three points at halftime, constantly being hounded by standout freshman Caleb Martin and junior Josh Granquist.
“Caleb Martin did a nice job coming in and guarding Wade and getting some length against him and Josh Granquist had a great defensive game as well,” said Mercier. “Josh has been playing solid these last couple weeks. I can’t say enough about him. If you play that hard, good things will happen and that’s the case for Josh. He plays hard for 32 minutes and good things happen for him.”
Granquist always seemed to come up with the big shot when the Jets needed it, whether it was hitting clutch triples, getting a key steal or taking the initiative to drive in the lane. He finished with a career-high 18 points in the victory.
“I was just practicing on my shots and practicing hard,” Granquist said. “It was a great game, great revenge. I play as hard as I can on defense because defense wins games,”
The Jets held a 27-18 advantage at halftime and expanded their lead to double digits in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, they led by 14 at one point before the frenzied Wolves did everything possible to inch their way back into it.
But the Jets stood firm and answered the Wolves’ onslaught with big buckets of their own from Travis Vincent and Trevor Ekberg.
“North Central played well defensively and we did as well for about three quarters, then we struggled against their inside game,” said Carney-Nadeau coach Jake Polfus. “Their big guys got good position and we got caught behind too many times. I think we got worn down a little bit and got out of our gameplan. Give North Central credit, they played great defensively all game.”
Even an 18-point fourth quarter from Schetter couldn’t pull the Wolves back. They trailed for nearly the entire game as their latest lead was 5-4 early in the first quarter.
The Wolves poor perimeter shooting eventually came back to haunt them.
“We had some good looks and looks that we wanted. We just couldn’t get a few to fall in a row and that was the difference in the game,” Polfus said. Our shooting just wasn’t there tonight.”
The triumphant Jets (19-3) will advance to the district final Friday night at North Dickinson, taking on a team that has played them tough this season.
The Nordics eliminated Bark River-Harris 61-52 at Felch Wednesday evening.
For the Wolves (17-4), the loss signals an end of an era for a team that made the final four last season, but Polfus was content with what they had accomplished with this group of seniors.
“I was hoping for a little better performance, but I can’t take anything away from our team,” he said. “We had a great year. We won both conferences. It’s hard to go out this way, but one day we’ll look back at it as a success.”