A team effort on both ends of the floor launched the No. 7 (Class AAA) Marshall boys' basketball team to a 68-58 victory over No. 3 Blake in Hopkins on Saturday. Austin Saugstad led the charge for the Tigers with a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double, while the Bears (11-5 overall) received all but four points from three players.
A day removed from allowing 63 points in an 82-63 Southwest Conference win over Luverne, the Tigers (17-2) knew they would need total commitment from their entire team on the defensive end in order to pick up their sixth win in a row.
"The guys really got after it on defense," Marshall head coach Travis Carroll said. "We were probably a little frustrated after the game (Friday night) with our defensive effort, but the guys answered the challenge today. It was a total team effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor. They had to work well with one another because Blake is a very talented team and the only way we were going to stop them was if we worked well together."
The Tigers held Blake to just 20 points in the first half and went into the locker room up 25-20. Marshall maintained its five-point advantage until the midway point of the second half when an offensive surge put the Tigers up by 10. Blake tried to work its way back into the game, but after having nearly blown a double-digit lead against Southwest Conference foe Redwood Valley on Tuesday, the Tigers had sharpened their instincts for closing out games.
"Our guys withstood the rush that Blake had and they handled the situation well," Carroll said. "Tuesday night at Redwood we maybe didn't handle that situation really well, but I think Tuesday night prepared us for Saturday's game."
Saugstad knocked down three 3-pointers and was 7-for-7 from the free throw line while dropping a game-high 26 points. Riley Sharbono added 15 points, while Derek Buysse had 10 points. Hunter Peterson added six points and six rebounds in the winning effort, while Tanner Bukowski scored eight.
Aaron Mathiowetz 1 0-0 2, Carl Douglas 0 0-1 0, Hunter Peterson 3 0-0 6, Austin Saugstad 8 7-7 26, Derek Buysse 4 1-2 10, Riley Sharbono 5 5-6 15, Tanner Bukowski 3 2-4 8, Spencer Petrich 0 1-2 1. Totals 24 16-22 68. 3-pointers 4 (Saugstad 3) Rebounds 37 (Saugstad 11, Peterson 6, Mathiowetz 6) Assists 14 (Mathiowetz 5, Bukowski 3) Steals 4 (Saugstad 2) Blocks 0 Turnovers 11 Total Fouls 17.
Kebu Johnson 7 0-1 15, Johnny Curran 1 0-0 3, John Veil 5 5-9 16, Blaine Crawford 10 3-3 23, Gus Austin 0 1-2 1. Totals 23 9-15 58. 3-pointers 3 Rebounds 28 (Crawford 10) Assists 10 (Veil 4) Steals 7 (Johnson 3) Blocks 4 (Crawford 3) Turnovers 6 Total Fouls 20.
Halftime Score: Marshall 25, Blake 20
Blake was led by Blaine Crawford's 23-point effort, while John Veil and Kebu Johnson went for 16 and 15 points, respectively, in defeat.
The Tigers will look to use their Top 10 win as a confidence boost with the treacherous Section 2AAA playoffs rapidly approaching.
"It's good to know that we can go on the road and play a team that's very athletic, very talented and get a win in their gym," Carroll said. "As you get deeper into the season you're going to run into teams that are very talented and you need to have the confidence going into those games that you can play with them and win the games at the end. That's why you schedule a team like Blake, to gain that confidence."
Before the section playoffs begin, however, the Tigers will look to wrap up the Southwest Conference title. Marshall holds a three game lead over Luverne with three SWC games remaining. The first is Tuesday's road contest with the Pipestone Area Arrows.