The Spartans boys basketball team hosted their final home game of the 2016-2017 regular season on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The Hutchinson Tigers came to town to try and avenge an earlier loss to the Orono squad. With a win, the Spartans would solidify a No. 2 seed in the section play-offs and put themselves in position to win the Wright County Conference East title if they pulled off another win against New Prague on March 3.
The Spartans jumped out to an early 17–6 lead thanks a quick six points each from juniors Max Bjorklund and Jarvis Thomas, along with five points from senior Jack Anderson. The Orono defense has been playing extremely well over the past seven games and this game was no different. The Tigers had a difficult time getting the ball up the court and even more difficulty getting a good shot attempt.
The Spartans eventually built the lead to 30-10 with continued strong scoring from Bjorklund and Thomas as well as contributions from junior Colton Codute and senior Noel Mshihiri. Hutchinson began to find their rhythm, started making shots on the offensive end and closed the gap to 12 points at 32–20. The Spartans, however, answered their run and led at halftime 36–22.
Orono started the second half very aggressive and quickly built their lead to 24 points at 46–22. Hutchinson again did not have an answer for the Spartan defense and their strong rebounding on both ends of the court. Orono’s lead continued to grow and they led by as much 34 points mid-way through the half. Coach Barry Wohler was able to get every player involved in the game and all players made contributed to the win.
In the final minute, Coach Wohler put the five seniors in the game together to the delight of the crowd. This was highlighted by a Daniel Murley three-point basket.
The final score was 66-39 in the Spartans’ favor.
Following the game, Coach Wohler said, “I was really pleased with our team defense and transition game.”
Leading the Spartans in scoring was Bjorklund with 24 and Thomas with 19. Thomas also led the Spartans in rebounding with nine.
Vs. New Prague
On Friday, March 3 the Spartans boys basketball team traveled to New Prague to play for the Wright County East Conference Championship. The Spartans had beaten the Trojans from New Prague earlier in the year, but it was a tightly contested game. It was also senior night for New Prague, so the game had extra meaning for the home team. The gymnasium was packed and provided a great high school basketball atmosphere.
As expected, the game was a tough battle between the two highly ranked teams. Both squads were playing solid defense and scoring was difficult. With nine minutes to play in the first half Orono held a 10–9 lead, with scoring from juniors Colton Codute and Max Bjorklund.
New Prague started hitting three-pointers and quickly took a 15–10 advantage.
Junior Jarvis Thomas then started to heat up and scored nine of the next 11 points. Following a three-point basket from junior Thomas Lecy, the Spartans regained the lead 26 to 25.
New Prague scored on an inside shot and took a one-point lead into the halftime break, 27–26.
The Spartans defense remained strong, as did their rebounding from Thomas, and seniors Jack Anderson and Noel Mshihiri.
The Spartans started strong in the second half and quickly built a four-point lead thanks to Thomas scoring six straight points and Codute adding three. Thomas continued to dominate inside and helped build the lead to 43–35 with 10 minutes remaining. Orono was also shooting extremely well from the free throw line, which paid off well in the end.
The Spartans maintained an 8-to-10-point lead until late in game when New Prague made a final run that reduced the lead to five points, 52–47 with 1:39 remaining.
Bjorklund, Codute, and Thomas all contributed from the free throw line with 11 of the final 15 game points for Orono coming from the line.
The Spartans won the game 61–58 to capture the Conference Championship.
“What a great atmosphere to play in. A packed house on the road. I couldn’t be happier for our guys. I was really pleased with our team defense once again,” Coach Barry Wohler said. “I like how we are playing going into sections.”
Leading the Spartans in scoring was Thomas with 27, followed by Bjorklund with 16 and Codute with 15. Thomas, Mshihiri and Anderson led the way in rebounding with eight, seven, and six rebounds respectively.
The squad will play their first section game against Blake on Wednesday, March 8 at the Orono High School gymnasium.