Tiger boys dominate border battle

MARSHALL – Short-handed due to injury, the Marshall Tigers boys’ basketball team was forced to shorten up its bench and shake off a sluggish start in order to claim its ninth consecutive victory with an 81-65 win over Sioux Falls Lincoln (S.D.) on Friday night.

The fourth-ranked (S.D. Class AA) Patriots entered Marshall 5-0 on the season and wreaked havoc on the offensive glass and forced four quick Marshall turnovers while taking a 10-4 lead over the opening 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

Seeing his team playing uncharacteristically sloppy basketball, Marshall head coach Travis Carroll took his first timeout and seized an opportunity to settle his team down.

“Tonight it was very important that, as a basketball team, we rebounded the ball well on the defensive end of the floor,” Carroll said. “(Lincoln is) a very athletic, very physical basketball team, and the only way we were going to have an opportunity to have a chance to win this game was if we rebounded on the defensive end. We got off to a slow start with that, but our guys answered the challenged.”

The Tigers, ranked seventh in Minnesota Class AAA, responded immediately and over the long term.

Directly after the timeout, Marshall went on a 7-2 run featuring five of Tanner Bukowski’s 15 points.

Bukowski hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 13:27 to play before scoring on a fastbreak layup 20 seconds later to cut the Patriot lead to one point.

The Patriots responded in turn with an 8-4 run over the next three minutes before the Tigers truly settled into the game.

Trailing 20-15, Carl Douglas kick-started a 13-2 Tiger run with 9:30 to play in the opening half. Riley Sharbono followed with a jumper a minute later to cut the lead back down to one, while Spencer Petrich’s finger roll and foul gave Marshall it’s first lead in almost eight minutes.

Petrich did not convert on the three-point play and Sioux Falls Lincoln center Addison Park replied with two of his game-high 24 points to put the Patriots back out in front with 6:55 to play.

The lead was short lived, however, as Tanner Bukowski knocked down his second 3 of the game, this time from the left corner to give the Tigers a 24-22 lead 15 seconds later. Hunter Peterson then followed with a pair of 3s from the same spot to stretch the Marshall lead to eight points.

Peterson, like Bukowski, would finish with 15 points, which proved invaluable in light of Marshall’s injury-reduced bench.

“He’s very patient and plays within himself,” Carroll said of Peterson, who also had four rebounds and three steals. “We know that he’s going to do well for us each and every night. He does a lot of things for us on the defensive end of the floor and he’s a great passer. He definitely got off to great start tonight shooting the basketball and that was important for us.”

Petrich, who played limited but highly effective minutes for the Tigers, helped start a 12-6 run for Marshall to close out the half after being fouled on a second chance opportunity with 4:16 to play.

“He’s a very physical player, he’s a very hard worker,” Carroll said of Petrich. “He does a great job for us, he gives us great minutes. He gives us 100 percent each and every game and we’re lucky to have a kid like Spencer on our basketball team.”

Leading 42-30 at halftime, the Tigers ratcheted up the intensity after the break and were rewarded with 19 free throws.

Behind 13 second-half points by Sharbono and eight by Aaron Mathiowetz, the Tigers held off any potential rallies by the Patriots while showing no signs of fatigue, despite the short bench and second game in as many days.

“Coach has done a good job of keeping us in shape,” Sharbono said. “We work hard at practice and it pays off.”

Mathiowetz finished the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Austin Saugstad had 12 points and 10 assists for his double-double. Sharbono, meanwhile, finished with 21 points for the second consecutive night.

Sharbono, who played sparse varsity minutes as a sophomore a season ago, has continued to be the main offensive weapon for the Tigers. Though he admits there were some nerves at first, he feels he is beginning to settle into his role for the 2012-13 Tigers.

“It’s nervous, but you get comfortable after awhile,” he said. “And being with these guys, these guys make you feel comfortable. I’ve been playing with them for awhile and it’s been fun.

“You’ve just got to know your teammates strengths. We find each other well, so we cut to the ball and they find us.”

Sharbono, Saugstad and Peterson each played over 30 minutes for the Tigers during the game, but the team did not see a dip in performance as the game went on.

“You get in situations like that where guys have to step up and give you minutes.” Carroll said. “We are very confident in the guys that we have and the guys stepped up tonight and we’re looking forward to getting everybody back here in the near future.”

Marshall shot 50 percent from the field for the game, while holding the Patriots to 33 percent shooting. The Tigers also had 48 rebounds and 22 assists as a team, while Lincoln had 37 and 9 respectively.

Next up for the Tigers (9-1 overall) is a road trip to Southwest Conference rival Luverne on Tuesday.