The temperature outside may be on the frigid side of the scale but the local Basketball scene may have never been hotter. Okay, so I know that Jamestown & Breckenridge aren't local in the most narrow sense but they're globally local. With players from both communities already locked in to playing Basketball at NDSU, I've wanted to get an up-close look at the third member of the triumvirate. The one player that is truly local - Maleeck Harden-Hayes of Moorhead. He hasn't announced whether he'll cross the river to play or take his talent to SoDak or maybe he'll join a late contender to his recruitment. I haven't heard any bigger programs coming after the young man but when hype starts building it can grow in a hurry. Whatever the case with that, seeing him play was the key motivator to make a second trip to Shanley. Before the guys could take the court though, the gals got to play a game that turned out to be much more interesting.
It was a tooth and nail game for most of the 36 minutes of the play, In the first half, Shanley managed to string together a couple stops & buckets to get a six point lead. The Spuds roared back with a 14 - 6 run that gave them a two point lead five minutes later. In response to that, Shanley came back with it's own 10 - 2 run to close out the half.
The see-saw kept right on rocking after the half. Shanley kept their run going with eight points scored and only two allowed to gain a game high 12 point lead. Before 60 seconds had ticked off the clock, Moorhead had created two turnovers, cutting the lead to five points. Another 24 of play and they had shaved it all the way down to a one point Shanley lead.
For every micro-run that either team went on, the other was able to counter. With a minute remaining in the game, Kelly Christmann got a steal and put the ball through to give the Deacons another two point lead. Four straight free throws extended their lead to six, then seven. And all Moorhead could do was play the foul game. Considering how they exploded for 11 points in under 90 seconds of play, I can't knock the approach but they could only light that match once. So the final score finished with Shanley up 68 - 61, in a game that was much closer than that for most most of the play. Beside the player of the game, Shanley got key contributions from Katherine Busek (14) and Hadley Huber (11). The Spuds were lead by 18 points from Ayana Blythe and Rylie Polomny along with 13 points & eight rebounds from Sam Zimmerman.
Then came the main event. As the first half unfolded, it seemed like the same script may be playing out. For every big play by Harden-Hayes, his future college recruit teammate Drew Hagen or the leading scorer in the game, Quentin Hegg, Shanley was able to do something to keep the score close over the first 18 minutes.
As every level of the game shows, having more talent is the best way to win. And with at least two future collegiate players on the roster to zero on Shanley, unless Talon Hoffer decides to go to a smaller school to play Basketball, the Spuds ran away with the game. The five point halftime lead was quickly stretched to 10, then 17 and it got to over 30 before all was said & done.
The fans who were in attendance were treated to a pretty lob dunk on a short break away by MH-H which all but capped off a physical game for him. At every opportunity, the Deacons doubled him, fouled him hard on several occasions and just generally did all they could to stop him but the wiry youngster kept on battling. It may be an unfair comparison but he reminded me of a Trayvonn Wright type player. Maybe not quite that much bounce yet, but the potential is there for that sort of a ceiling.
The game plan used by Shanley is likely one that most teams have and will employ against Moorhead this season. It was necessary for his teammates to step up, and they did in a big way. Besides the boys already mentioned, Brady Walthall chipped in 18 points for the potatoes.
Players of the Games
With a game high 23 points, Quentin Hegg was an easy choice
Shanley's Reile Payne finished 24 points & 11 rebounds, making her an obvious pick as well.
Photos of the Games
To see the game galleries click the pics!