EVELETH — The Eveleth-Gilbert boys’ basketball team knew Tuesday’s Iron Range Conference and Section 7AA tilt against International Falls was an important one.
From start to finish, the Golden Bears had control of the game and took it to the Broncos, coming away with the 79-49 home win.
Having a distinct height advantage down low with 6-foot-6 Will Bittmann and 6-foot-2 Zach Lindseth, the Bears had a quick recipe for success in the first half that carried them through the first 18 minutes.
Bittmann and Lindseth scored two of the first three buckets for E-G with Carter Mavec scoring the third on a layup off the pass from Josh Creer-Oberstar.
The Broncos’ Jace Hallin nabbed the first International Falls bucket to make it 6-2, but Bittmann answered with a rebound and a putback on the next E-G possession to make it 8-2, forcing a Broncos timeout from head coach Amis MacKenzie.
After the short timeout, Bears junior Jake Sickel got in on the action with a pair of buckets, the second of which coming from a dribble and drive starting at the three-point line.
Down 12-2, International Falls got it back inside 10 thanks to a lay in from Cullen Rein but a Lindseth putback, followed by a Mavec two-pointer extended the lead to 12, 16-4.
Eveleth-Gilbert continued to play the first half at their pace, forcing another Broncos timeout when they were up 20-10 with 7:17 to play.
The last seven minutes featured strong post play from both Bittmann and Lindseth, each getting easy buckets thanks to accurate lob passes from the E-G guards.
When the halftime horn rang, the Bears found themselves up 35-19 with Bittmann leading the team with 11 points. Lindseth had 10, Mavec had eight and Sickel had six. Jace Hallin led the Broncos with 10.
A near-dominant first half in the books, Eveleth-Gilbert head coach Adam Roen said the message to his team in the locker room was clear and simple.
“We told them that International Falls didn’t come here just to play and twiddle around,” Roen said. “They came to knock down some shots and play a game. We had to remind them that there’s two halves to a game and they needed to play strong in the second to get this IRC and section win.”
Out of sorts in the first half, the Broncos came out hot in the second and looked to make a game of things. Down by as much as 21 at the beginning of the closing half, the Broncos closed the gap to just 11 thanks to some key buckets from Rein and Jesse Forsythe.
“What was absolutely ideal for us,” Roen said. “Was that we didn’t take this punch to the face and stay down. They stood back up and said you can punch and you can swing, but we’re still going to keep playing. And that’s not always what we do.”
The Bears stood right back up, just as they needed to and came alive for the reminder of the half.
The freshman Mavec started finding his groove and went off for 21 second half points to fuel the E-G offense late. Rebounds from the E-G bigs turned into cross court passes to Mavec who often went unguarded and took the easy points to open the lead back up.
After a Bittmann putback halfway through the frame, freshman guard AJ Roen knocked down a pair of threes of the bench to help fuel the Bears. Some more post play from Lindseth and some easy buckets from Mavec put things out of reach, as Eveleth-Gilbert grabbed the IRC and section win, 79-49.
Mavec finished with 29 to lead all scorers. Lindseth added 11, Bittmann finished with 15 and Sickel chipped in with 10. Hallin led the Broncos with 19. Forsythe added 12.
On his team’s win, coach Roen said a large part of the success they saw boiled down to preparation.
“Our boys came out and played well tonight because they prepared well for it. They listened at practice leading up to this and paid attention at film and they brought it all to the floor tonight.”
Noting the balanced scoring act at the half and throughout the game, Roen says lately his team has been able to find the important balance when it comes to scoring and shot selection.
“Since Christmas, they’ve really figured out the right time for each guy to be scoring and that’s what we need if we want to be competitive in the future. Being a one man show isn’t going to get us where we want to be.”
Winning three of their last four games, Roen says it looks like his team has started to click, something that he believes has been brewing since he took over as head coach last season.
“We’ve said before that we knew that this was going to take more than year to get this all to work. And it did take that long, if not a little more. We’ve played some great competitors to start the season and we don’t want to take any thing away from them, but the boys are definitely starting to click and figure things out on the court.”
Eveleth-Gilbert (4-8) has two more road games to wrap up play this week including games in Silver Bay and at Mounds Park Academy. On the road, Roen hopes to see just one thing.
“Progress,” the coach said. “I don’t want us to be happy with where we’re at. I want to see some more progress.”
IF 19 30 — 49
EG 35 44 — 79
International Falls: Jace Hallin 19, Bryant Koenig 4, Jesse Forsythe 12, Cole Anderson 2, Cullen Rein 8, Jett Tomczak 2, Knute Boerger 2; Three pointers: Hallin 2, Koenig 1, Forsythe 1, Rein 1; Free throws: 8-11; Total fouls: 8; Fouled out: none.
Eveleth-Gilbert: Carter Mavec 29, AJ Roen 6, Zach Lindseth 19, Jake Sickel 10, Will Bittmann 15; Three pointers: Roen 2; Free throws: 3-7; Total fouls: 11; Fouled out: none.
At Ely, a big night from Cherry’s Jessa Schroetter carried the Tigers past Ely Tuesday night, 63-30.
Schroetter led all scorers in the contest with 29 points. The Timberwolves’ Erika Mattson fought back with 17 in the loss.
Cherry (10-3) will travel to Virginia on Thursday, while Ely (10-3) will host Duluth Marshall on Saturday.
CHS 31 32 — 63
Ely 12 18 — 30
Cherry: Katie Peterson 4, Lauren Staples 6, Karlee Grondahl 6, Danielle Clement 5, Kaelynn Kudis 7, Jessa Schroetter 29, Jillian Sajdak 6; Three pointers: Clement 1, Kudis 1; Free throws: 9-28; Total fouls: 20; Fouled out: Olivia Bosse.
Ely: Erika Mattson 17, Brielle Kallberg 3, Grace LaTourell 5, Rachel Coughlin 4, Sarah Visser 1; Three pointers: Mattson 2, LaTourell 1; Free throws: 11-21; Total fouls: 17; Fouled out: none.