NORTHROP - The Granada-Huntley-East Chain Mustangs jumped out to an early lead and fought off two Truman/Martin Luther comebacks to claim a 59-52 victory over the BluejayKnights on Thursday night in Northrop.
Cade Ekstrom swished a shot from the wing for three of his game-high 16 points to cut the Mustangs' lead to 56-52 with 42 seconds remaining in the game.
GHEC, however, was able to hold off TML by making 3 of 7 free throws to stall the home team's comeback to claim the victory.
The Mustangs went on a 15-6 scoring run to open the game, with Logan Pytleski sinking a jumper in the lane for two of his nine points, followed by back-to-back 3s from Dylan Petrowiak. Petrowiak finished with nine points, while teammate Josh Johanson scored a team-leading 12 points.
"We told our guards before the game that they should be looking to shoot, and if they get an open look to be aggressive and take the shot," said GHEC head coach Scott Chirpich. "They were aggressive and the shots were falling for us early."
Chandler Greier helped fuel the BluejayKnights' first-half comeback, scoring seven points to make it 17-13 with 6:20 remaining in the opening frame.
Greier's first basket - a jumper on the baseline - helped stop the Mustangs' scoring run to make it 15-8 at the 8-minute mark.
The BluejayKnights' senior forward then snapped the twine on a jumper to make it 17-10 before sinking a trifecta from the top of the key.
The Mustangs' Jared Green was able to finally put a stop to TML's scoring run, sinking a three from the left wing to make it 20-15 with 5:20 remaining in the half.
"One of the things we really wanted to do today was to make sure that we were having fun and playing hard. It looked like we were doing that," said Chirpich. "We were more patient on offense and we had better closeouts and rebounding on defense."
With the BluejayKnights playing without junior center Sam Geistfeld due to injury, the Mustangs took advantage by grabbing 42 rebounds to TML's 32.
"I thought that with Sam not playing, that is a huge loss for us. He gives us a lot of points and a lot of rebounds," said TML head coach Roland Wendt. "After the first few minutes of the game, though I thought that the other guys really stepped up and played well."
DaMarko Thomas scored seven points for the BluejayKnights, while grabbing 10 boards.
Jeremy Smith netted 10 points to go along with five rebounds for TML, while Greier scored 10 points.
Trent Stensland and Ryan Shumski controlled the paint for the Mustangs, grabbing 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively to go along with 10 and 11 points.
Petrowiak and Pytleski each scored nine in the win for the Mustangs.
As a team, GHEC sank 20 of 52 shots, including going 8-for-17 from behind the arc.
The Mustangs also shot 11 of 21 from the charity stripe.
The BluejayKnights went 18-for-55 shooting from the floor, making just 4 of 18 from 3-point land. Additionall, TML made 12 of 20 from the free throw line.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (7-14) hosts Sleepy Eye/St. Mary's at 7:30 p.m. in a nonconference game tonight in East Chain.
Truman/Martin Luther (13-12) travels for a 7:30 p.m. nonconference game against New Ulm Cathedral on Monday.
Johanson 3-9 3-4 12, Petrowiak 3-11 1-3 9, Stensland 4-11 0-2 10, Kristenson 0-3 1-2 1, Pytleski 2-5 5-6 9, Shumski 5-10 1-4 11, Green 3-3 0-0 7. Totals: 20-52 11-21 59.
Ekstrom 5-12 5-5 16, Smith 4-13 0-3 10, Thomas 2-7 3-4 7, Greier 4-13 1-2 10, Weihe 3-7 3-6 9, Neumann 0-1 0-0 0, Wille 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 18-55 12-20 52.
3-pointers: GHEC 8-17 (Johanson 3-7, Petrowiak 2-3, Stensland 2-5, Kristenson 0-1, Green 1-1); TML 4-18 (Ekstrom 1-6, Smith 2-6, Greier 1-6). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: GHEC 42 (Stensland 11, Shumski 10 and Kristenson 9); TML 32 (Thomas 10 and Weihe 7).