MARSHALL - The Marshall boys basketball players wanted to do something special for head coach Tom Critchley on his 43rd birthday on Saturday, so they all pitched in and got him a win.
Facing a tough Class AAAA squad from Moorhead, the Tigers came through in a tight back-and-forth contest to grab a 52-49 non-conference victory at Marshall High School.
The margin between the two teams was never more than five points in the second half, and Marshall closed out the victory with defense by holding the Spuds to just two points over the final five minutes. Five straight missed free throws by the Tigers in the final 1 minute, 6 seconds left the door open for the Spuds, but two three-point attempts by Moorhead guard Matt Ellingson in the final five seconds were off the mark and Marshall escaped with the win.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Marshall’s Tanner Bukowski (24) draws a foul on Moorhead’s Aaron Lien on a shot in the first half of Saturday afternoon’s non-conference game at Marshall High School.
The game was probably a little closer than it should have been in the closing moments, as Marshall missed 10 of its 20 free-throw attempts, but the passion and energy Critchley got from his players against the skilled Spuds helped to make his birthday a happy one.
"I love what I do and I love hanging out with these kids, especially when they put forth the effort they put out there today," Critchley said. "We didn't shoot the ball particularly well, we didn't score a lot of points, but we found a way to get the job done, which is what good teams do."
The win was Marshall's third in a row. Tuesday's game at Mankato West is the final regular season contest for the Tigers (17-8 overall) before they begin defense of their title in the Section 2AAA tournament.
Camden Bosche 3 0-0 6, Cody Dorrow 1 0-0 3, Matt Ellingson 5 1-2 11, Aaron Lien 7 3-4 19, Austin Nelson 3 0-2 8, Judd Roesler 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 4-8 49. Three-pointers 5 (Lien 2, Nelson 2) Rebounds 38 (Lien 9) Assists 12 (Ellingson 4) Steals 8 (Lien 40) Blocks 0 Turnovers 10 Total Fouls 15.
Tanner Bukowski 2 3-6 8, Lee Christianson 3 1-4 9, Tyus DeBoer 1 2-2 4, Aaron Mathiowetz 5 1-1 12, Hunter Peterson 2 0-0 5, Austin Saugstad 2 2-3 6, Mason Schnaible 2 1-4 5, Shawn Tykwinski 1 0-0 3. Three-pointers 6 (Christianson 2) Rebounds 25 (Mathiowetz 6) Assists 13 (Saugstad 4) Steals 9 (Mathiowetz 3) Blocks 1 Turnovers 13 Total Fouls 13.
Halftime Score: Marshall 24, Moorhead 23.
The Tigers have been shooting at a high percentage during their current win streak, which began with a dominant 81-57 victory over rival Worthington on Feb. 16. Marshall shot 50 percent from the field on Saturday against the Spuds (15-8), marking the third straight game the team has shot 50 percent or higher.
Marshall junior forward Aaron Mathiewetz, who led the Tigers with 12 points and seven rebounds on Saturday, said the team has been more focused in all aspects of the game as the season winds down.
"We've been rebounding really well, we're moving the ball, we're executing, we're hitting our shots and we just come in with this mindset that 'We're going to beat this team. We've just got to player our best and play our game,'" he said.
The Tigers didn't have a lot of chances to shoot the ball Saturday due to a deliberate, patient offense run by the Spuds. Moorhead also had a size advantage in the game and held a 38-25 edge on the boards.
A team that likes to try to play at a fast pace when it can, things slowed down for Marshall Saturday. The Tigers were only able to force Moorhead into 10 turnovers with their pressure defense, and the Spuds commonly had offensive possessions upwards of 30 seconds.
The Spuds took 60 shots from the field to Marshall's 36, but the Tigers' tough defense held Moorhead to 33.3 percent shooting.
"Their coach (Corey Zimmerman) was talking before the game about needing to go to a shot clock because too many people hold the ball," Critchley said. "At halftime I said jokingly, 'What are you talking about Corey? You need a shot clock. Hurry up.'
"It's tough to play defense when another team has the ball that long because kids lose focus. But to our credit, we stayed in front of them and made them work for everything."
Marshall forward Tanner Bukowski hit a three-pointer and a long two within a span of a minute to help the Tigers grab the largest lead of the game (24-16) with 6:45 left in the first half, but Marshall didn't score a point the rest of the half and went into the locker room up 24-23 at the break.
Moorhead 6-foot-4 junior forward Aaron Lien got going in the second half, where he scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in a variety of ways.
"He's good. He's a solid D-II, possibly mid-major type kid," Critchley said. "He's left-handed, he's smooth, he does a pretty good job on the block. We threw a bunch of guys at him, but against a kid like that, you're not going to stop him. You just have to make him work for everything he gets."
While it was mostly Lien doing the scoring for Moorhead, a number of players were involved for Marshall. Down 47-44 with 4:48 left in the game, the Tigers got a big three-pointer by Shawn Tykwinski from the left wing to tie score. Marshall went up 48-47 after Lee Christianson split a pair of free throws with 3:07 remaining after getting fouled hard on a drive to the basket.
Tyus DeBoer added two more points on a trip to the free-throw line with 1:38 left, and after Moorhead had a turnover on the ensuing inbound play, Bukowski got the ball, was fouled and put Marshall up 52-47 with 1:29 left after making both of his free throws.
Lien scored on a layup with 45 seconds remaining to cut the lead to three, but while Marshall was unable to close out the game due to five straight missed free throws, the Spuds were unable to score another basket.
Mathiowetz was the only Tiger to reach double figures in scoring. Christianson finished with nine points, Bukowski had eight points and a pair of steals, and Austin Saugstad added six points and four assists.
With one game left in the regular season, Mathiowetz said the Tigers have taken on a new attitude as they work to make a return trip to Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
"Everybody has become more focused," he said. "Going to state last year, everybody just wants to get back in that mindset and go there again."