Orono boys notch 2 more, section title next

Max Bjorklund goes up for two of his 32 points against Patrick Henry on March 11.  (Submitted photo)
Max Bjorklund goes up for two of his 32 points against Patrick Henry on March 11. (Submitted photo)
Vs. Blake
On Wednesday, March 8, the Spartans hosted the Blake Bears in the opening round of section 6AAA tournament play. The Bears came in to the game as the No. 7 seed while the Spartans enjoyed the No. 2 seed. The game started slow for both teams with no team scoring in the first three minutes of the game.

Orono finally got on the board with junior Colton Codute scoring the first five points for the team. The score was close early on in the game, until junior Jarvis Thomas scored six straight points to give the Spartans a 15–6 lead.

The Orono defense was very strong and the Bears had difficulty getting the ball up the court.

The Spartans started to pull away and with 5:40 remaining, they enjoyed a 24-11 advantage.

At the end of the first half, the score was 35–22 in favor of Orono.

Along with aggressive defense, the Spartans were also controlling rebounds with Thomas, Anderson and Mshihiri leading the way.

The second half started much faster for the home team. They quickly jumped out to a 20-point lead with 13 minutes remaining in the game. The Spartans maintained the 20-point advantage throughout the rest of the game with the largest lead topping out at 25 points.

Seniors JR Seitz, Daniel Murley, and Alec Porter all contributed to the scoring.
The final score was Orono 73 – Blake 39.

“I thought we played hard, although we did not shoot the ball very well,” Coach Barry Wohler said. “It is always good to get that first playoff game win.”

Leading the Spartans in scoring was Bjorklund with 17 points, Codute with 13 and Thomas with 12. Thomas led the way in rebounds with eight, followed by Anderson and Mshihiri with six each.

Vs. Minneapolis Patrick Henry

On Saturday, March 11 one of the Section 6AAA semifinal games was held at the Orono High School. The No. 2 seeded Spartans hosted the No. 3 seeded Minneapolis Patrick Henry Patriots. The Spartans beat the Patriots earlier in the year in a tightly contested game, and it was expected to be a great game once again.

The Patriots got on the scoreboard first with a three-point basket. The Spartans charged right back with three-point baskets from senior Jack Anderson and junior Max Bjorklund, to give the home squad an early lead.

The game remained very close and was tied at 16, with scoring from Bjorklund and junior Jarvis Thomas. The Patriots went on a seven-nothing run with great shooting from their guards. They continued to build on their lead and at one point led by 15 points at 45–30.

The Spartans slowly started to get back in the game thanks to scoring from junior Griffin Sage, sophomore Blake O’Connor, Bjorklund and Thomas.

With one minute left in the half, Anderson completed a three-point play that dropped the Patriot lead to eight points at the half way mark.

Even though the Spartans trailed by eight points, they were starting to build momentum to get them off to a strong start in the second half.

The second half was back and forth, with both teams shooting the ball very well.

The Spartans were playing without their starting point guard, junior Colton Codute, who was injured late in the first half. Senior Noel Mshihiri was also sidelined much of the game with foul trouble. Sage and O’Connor stepped in and gave Coach Barry Wohler some great minutes, allowing the Spartans to stay in the game with the hot shooting Patriots.

Slowly the Orono squad reduced Patrick Henry’s lead with Bjorklund and Thomas leading the way offensively. Thomas and Anderson also became more aggressive on the rebounding side and limited the Patriots to one shot with each possession.

Orono fans react while watching the game against Patrick Henry on March 11. (Submitted photo)
Orono fans react while watching the game against Patrick Henry on March 11. (Submitted photo)

Following a thunderous dunk from Thomas, the momentum started to go the Spartans way.

With six minutes remaining, junior Thomas Lecy’s drained a three-point shot that closed the gap to one point, 63–62. From this point on, the game continued to be very close with each team taking the lead at different times. It was clear the game would go down to the wire with free throws becoming an important component.

The Spartans held a late lead at 83–80, but the Patriots had one more chance.

Following a missed three-point attempt from Patrick Henry, Anderson grabbed the defensive rebound and was immediately fouled with four seconds remaining. Anderson made both free throws to seal the victory for the Spartans.
The final score was Orono 85, Patrick Henry 82.

“I was so proud of our guys to battle back and win this game,” Coach Wohler said. “I think that is the fullest and loudest I have ever seen the Orono gym. What a great atmosphere for high school basketball.”

Bjorklund led the team in scoring with an impressive 32 points. Thomas contributed 20 points, with Sage and Anderson scoring 13 and 10 respectively.

Thomas also had 14 rebounds, followed by Anderson with nine. Sage led the team with nine assists.

The Spartans will travel to the Chanhassen High School on Thursday, March 16 to play DeLaSalle in the section title game.