Wolves fend off Kleiman, Broncos

HARRIS – ‘Just keep shooting’ has long been the mantra of the Carney-Nadeau Wolves. The belief that perseverance will eventually pay off, as it did Tuesday night. The Wolves (12-4, 7-3 CUP, 6-3 Skyline) used a couple quick bursts for separation and escaped Bark River-Harris with a 58-50 dual conference victory.

The game was in doubt until the closing minutes, and that was thanks in large part to the effort of Broncos senior Kyle Kleiman. He took advantage of a mismatch in height and length and found space driving inside repeatedly.

On the other end of the court, Dionte Blahnik was the Wolves most consistent player, and showed the determination needed down the stretch.

“It was a great effort tonight on both teams,” said Wolves head coach Jake Polfus. “I thought Bark River did a great job of getting the ball inside where they wanted it to go, and I thought we struggled trying to get the ball out of Kleiman’s hands. Give Bark River credit, they played a great game tonight.”

Defensively, the Broncos clogged the paint and received good play from their guards Cody Welch and Jorden Sodergren. Welch knocked down three triples, two in the second quarter to keep his team afloat, and defensively he showed quickness, including early in the game when he picked Keenan Lampinen’s pocket for a steal.

The Wolves took a lot of shots from the perimeter but were off the mark for the entire first half. However, they eventually got that shot to fall in the third when DuPont broke through for a long three from the right, and Austin Johnson followed suit seconds later with a shot from the top of the key.

“We’ve been trying to work on that. We’ve been struggling from the 3-point line,” said Polfus. “One game we’ll be hot and the next we’ll be off. We’ve been trying to find some consistency, but give the kids credit. They kept shooting and made some shots.”

Foul trouble and injury dictated a lot of the ebb and flow to the game. DuPont was slapped with two fouls early on, trying to guard Kleiman and sat for a stretch. Later his ankle injury in the third put more pressure on Lampinen and Blahnik to get the job done.

For the Broncos, Welch picked up his third and fourth fouls within seconds of each other with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter. With him on the bench, the Wolves went on a 7-4 run to close the third, and held a 43-38 advantage going into the fourth.

“When he (Welch) went out, that helped us,” said Polfus. “We got some easy buckets in the second half.”

Also key for the Wolves was a 6-0 run at the end of the second quarter, all six points coming in a span of less than 30 seconds.

“The kids really wanted this game and it was a well-played game. We just didn’t play for 32 minutes,” said Broncos head coach Tom Lindquist. “With Cody being on the bench – he hit some three’s early to break it open, and we were ahead by 4-5 points. Instead of taking control, we turned it over and they got six easy unanswered points in 20 seconds Those are things we can’t do against Carney.”

The Broncos led 48-47 at the midway point of the fourth quarter after a bucket from Kleiman. That would be as close as they got. Carney-Nadeau got the calls down the stretch, took care of the ball and made their free throws to put it away.

The Broncos were playing without starting point guard Troy Teeple due to team disciplinary reasons, and will finish the season without him.

“This is the team we’ve got for the rest of the year,” said Lindquist. “No more Troy Teeple for the rest of the year. It’s for team reasons like not coming to practice. We’re moving forward.”

Sodergren took over at point guard and handled the ball well, but Lindquist saw his junior guard tense up.

“I thought Jorden came out a little intense at first. He probably put a little extra pressure on himself,” Lindquist said. “I told him to relax and let the offense come.”

Blahnik was at his best in the fourth quarter, scoring eight of his 20 points and drawing fouls. He was 10-for-12 from the free-throw line and visibly stepped up when DuPont went down.

“That’s a credit to Dionte,” said Polfus. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself each and every game and he came through big time down the stretch, not only with his scoring but with his rebounding.”

“We started out really slow and kind of came out slow in the second half, but we finally picked it up in the end,” Blahnik said. “It was kind of at a point where it was showing us that we had to step up for another player now, because we were already playing slow.”

The two teams may meet again in the first round of districts. The Broncos will host the winner of Carney-Nadeau and Stephenson on March 5.

Bark River-Harris won the junior varsity game 52-44.

The Broncos (9-7, 5-5 CUP, 6-4 Skyline) last four games are on the road. They visit Forest Park on Friday before traveling to North Central on Feb. 21. Carney-Nadeau visits North Dickinson, Friday night.