MARSHALL - Shooting was an issue for Nathaniel Huot in the opening rounds of the Section 3A-North tournament.
In games against Lakeview and Lincoln HI, the Dawson-Boyd junior guard shot just 29.2 percent (7 of 24) from the field and 21.4 percent (3 of 14) from behind the three-point line, but the cold shooting hardly mattered as the Blackjacks won the two games by a combined 67 points.
Huot knew he had to step up his play Saturday, with top-seeded Dawson-Boyd taking on No. 2 seed MACCRAY for the Section 3A-North title. Shooting 6-for-10 from three-point range and scoring a game-high 28 points in the Blackjacks' 78-62 win, it's clear he was up to the challenge.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Dawson-Boyd junior guard Nathaniel Huot watches?(2) his three-pointer go through the net with three seconds left in the first half as MACCRAY’s Taylor Thissen (42)?and Corey Abbas look on during Saturday night’s Section 3A-North championship game at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University.
With MACCRAY breathing down the Blackjacks' neck through the first 15 minutes of the game, Huot drilled three three-pointers in the final 2:35 of the half, including one with three seconds left on the clock, to help Dawson-Boyd gain a 36-24 edge. The defending Section 3A champion Wolverines never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
"I knew it was a big game and I had to help support my team," said Huot, who also had a team-high seven assists. "My teammates helped me out a ton tonight. They got me open shots all night.
"Right before the end of the half, Jack (Hansen) hit me on one. Zach (Stelter) gave me a shot, Joey (Lee) gave me a shot and I was hitting them tonight. It was a good feeling."
Corey Abbas 6 3-4 19, Riley Aeikens 8 2-3 18, Alex Wrede 1 0-0 2, Brady Boike 6 1-4 13, Taylor Thissen 3 0-0 7, Bailey Boike 1 1-1 3. Totals 25 7-12 62. Three-pointers 5 (Abbas 4) Rebounds 24 (Br. Boike 12, Aeikens 6) Assists 10 (Aeikens 3) Steals 4 Blocks 2 (Aeikens 2) Turnovers 14 Total Fouls 16.
Nathaniel Huot 7 8-10 28, Zach Stelter 6 2-2 16, Joey Lee 4 4-4 12, Josh Wager 1 0-0 3, Evan Robertson 3 0-0 6, Michael Lee 2 3-4 7, Jack Hansen 2 0-0 6. Totals 25 17-20 78. Three-pointers 11 (Huot 6, Hansen 2, Stelter 2) Rebounds 25 (Stelter 10, Robertson 7) Assists 18 (Huot 7, J. Lee 6) Steals 8 (Robertson 3, J. Lee 2) Blocks 2 Turnovers 6 Total Fouls 13.
Halftime Score: Dawson-Boyd 36, MACCRAY 24.
With the victory, fourth-ranked Dawson-Boyd (26-2 overall) advances to play second-ranked Southwest Minnesota Christian (25-1) in the Section 3A championship. The game will start at 8 p.m. Thursday at Southwest Minnesota State University.
The Blackjacks hit 11 of 18 three-pointers in the game. Stelter knocked down a pair from distance, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds. And while scoring 12 points, sophomore guard Joey Lee also had a hand in helping teammates get open looks both beyond the arc and in the interior. He finished with six of his team's 18 assists.
Dawson-Boyd and MACCRAY (22-7) had faced each other twice during the regular season, with the Wolverines winning the first matchup 65-64 and Dawson-Boyd earning an 80-75 overtime win in the second meeting. The Blackjacks didn't allow the third matchup to go down the wire, largely in part to their hot outside shooting led by Huot's strong performance.
"He wasn't able to get himself into a rhythm the last couple of games, but if you go back a week-and-a-half ago, he was shooting the ball extremely well," said Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson. "He's a competitor and feeds off of the atmosphere and the situation. Obviously, he came through.
"He was really our spark there when it was kind of back and forth to start and he had a stretch where he hit a couple of threes to push it to six and then to nine. That just seemed like it gave us that little extra energy on the defensive end."
Larson said his team played "exceptionally great" on both ends of the floor in the opening half. The Wolverines and Blackjacks traded baskets through the first 12 minutes, with neither team gaining more than a three-point lead. MACCRAY got its points predominantly in the interior with baseline cuts to the rim and close-range shots. The Blackjacks were scoring from all over.
With 5:36 left in the half, Dawson-Boyd forward Evan Robertson began what turned into a 16-4 run to end the half by scoring on a putback off a missed Huot three-pointer. Huot followed with a spot-up three from the right wing, then hit a pull-up three from the same spot 26 seconds later after a steal by Hansen to put his team up 29-20. Hansen hit one of his two threes with 1:07 remaining, and Dawson-Boyd went into the half with all of the momentum after a Lee drove through the lane and kicked a pass out to Huot for a three from the left wing with three seconds left to go up 36-24.
Whenever MACCRAY tied to make a run in the second half, Dawson-Boyd snuffed it out immediately with a three-pointer or a putback basket. The Blackjacks shot 35 percent from two-point range, but gave themselves plenty of opportunities for second-chance points with 13 offensive rebounds. They also took care of the basketball, turning the ball over just six times all game.
Larson said another key was the team's defense on MACCRAY 6-foot-6 senior guard Riley Aeikens. Aeikens scored 18 points in the game, with six of them coming in the final minute when the game was already decided. His 18 points got him to 1,000 career points.
"We did a good job of just not allowing them to get into a rhythm," Larson said. "We wanted to make those kids work on both ends of the floor.
"That Aeikens kid, at the end of the game he started to look a little tired. We were running him through screens on the defensive end and forcing him to earn everything he got on the offensive end and he had to expend a lot of energy, and it showed."
MACCRAY's Corey Abbas hit 4 of 5 three-pointers and scored a team-high 19 points. Brady Boike, a 6-5 center, added 13 points and pulled down 12 of his team's 24 total rebounds.
Aeikens was a player the Blackjacks focused on slowing down in Saturday's game, and in Thursday's meeting with SWC the focus will be 6-foot-9 center Zach Huisken. Huot said it will be one of the toughest challenges his team has faced all season.
"We just have to limit Huisken as much as we can," Huot said. "I know it's going to be pretty much impossible to keep a 6-9 kid out of the paint and from doing everything he does. He sees the court great and it's going to be a project for us, but if we play good team defense I think we can handle him."