VIRGINIA — A rough night on the boards for the Virginia boys’ basketball team led to numerous second — and third — chance buckets for visiting Deer River, as the Warriors downed the Blue Devils in their season opener, 76-58.
Circumstances were favorable for Virginia when it came bringing down the boards, as Deer River’s 6-foot-6, 260 pound center Tait Kongsjord found himself in foul trouble early on.
After a made free throw followed by a layup from Virginia’s Jack Toman, the Devils led 3-2 early on with Kongsjord already picking up his second foul, sending him to the bench for the rest of the half.
Two more buckets from Dan Squires and Mason Carlson later gave Virginia a 7-4 lead, but Deer River’s Sam Rahier knocked down his first three of the evening to tie things up.
The Devils offense started to sputter and on defense, the Warriors out-hustled Virginia on the glass, turning missed baskets into second chances. A layup from Ty Morrison followed by a free throw and another made three from Rahier gave Deer River a 15-9 lead.
Squires knocked down a pair of free throws to get two points back for Virginia but Deer River’s Colton Hemphill responded with a layup to stretch the deficit back to six.
Carlson pulled up for a three on the next Blue Devils possession and knocked it down to make it 17-14 Deer River. A Morrison free throw followed by two free throws by Toman put the Devils within two points. They were able to tie things up shortly after on thanks to another two points from Toman on the drive.
Morrison responded with a pull up jumper and a possession later, Rahier knocked down his third three of the night to make it 23-19 Deer River. Two more points in the paint for Virginia from Squires got it back to two, but Deer River ended the half on a 10-2 run to give them their largest lead of the night.
During that stretch, buckets from Ty Fox, Morrison and Rahier stretched the lead out. Virginia’s Cameron Stocke knocked down a jumper to stop the bleeding, with Deer River heading into the locker room up 35-25 at the break.
A new half gave Kongsjord new life as the big bruiser got to flex his skills on the board without a fear of fouls. The Warriors opened up second half scoring with a three from Fox. Following two points on the drive from Toman, Morrison hit a pair of free throws after being fouled by Carlson.
A Kongsjord put back a few possessions later made it 42-29. The Devils responded with buckets from Peters and Squires, but the Warriors went back to Fox for another two-points and opened up a new option in Ethan Williams for two more.
Trailing 46-34 following a Toman free throw, Virginia head coach Derek Aho took a timeout, with the Devils coming out of it in a 1-2-2 zone, as opposed to the man-to-man defense they had run up until then.
The zone eventually shifted into a 1-3-1, but neither seemed to give Virginia the defensive spark they needed to inch closer to Deer River.
The Warriors continued to share the ball well between Rahier, Williams, Fox and Morrison with Kongsjord proving effective on the board until he eventually fouled out halfway through the second half.
Virginia had opportunities to score thanks to a foul-happy Warriors team, but Virginia’s performance at the charity stripe was lacking, going 9-21 compared to Deer River’s 23-27.
Three pointers, drives and jumpers from Carlson helped keep Virginia afloat late in the contest, but the Warriors eventually pulled away and closed out the win, 76-58.
For Virginia, Carlson led all scorers in the contest with 20. Jack Toman added 19 and Dan Squires finished with 12.
Rahier led Deer River with 19, Blake Fox added 17, Ty Morrison finished with 13 and Ethan Williams chipped in with 12.
The Blue Devils (0-1) will be back in action on Tuesday when they host International Falls.
DR 35 41 — 76
VHS 25 33 — 58
Deer River: Sam Rahier 19, Blake Fox 17, Ethan Williams 12, Rhett Mundt 2, Fred Jackson 2, Tait Kongsjord 6, Colton Hemphill 5, Ty Morrison 13; Three pointers: Rahier 3, Fox 3, Hemphill 1; Free throws: 23-27; Total fouls: 17; Fouled out: Kongsjord.
Virginia: Nick Peters 5, Dan Squires 12, Jack Toman 19, Mason Carlson 20, Cameron Stocke 2; Three pointers: Toman 1, Carlson 2; Free throws: 9-21; Total fouls: 22; Fouled out: Peters.
Mountain Iron-Buhl 58
At Ely, the Timberwolves turned a two-point lead at the halftime into an 17-point win, downing Mountain Iron-Buhl on opening night, 75-58.
Ely’s Emmett Faltesek led all scorers with 21. Will Davies finished with 16 points and came down with 18 rebounds. Joey Bianco added 14, Harry Simons finished with 12 and Brock LaTourell chipped in with 10.
Asher Zubich led the Rangers with 15 points. Nik Jesch tallied 13 and Riley Busch finished with 12.
Ely head coach Tom McDonald had good things to say about his team on opening night.
“I thought we played well against a good opponent,” McDonald said. I think the key was having all of our starters in doubles figures. We shared the ball well for sure.”
McDonald also complimented Davies’ work on the boards.
“He went up and got us 18 rebounds to go with all those points and he’s only 5-foot-8 so it was a good night for him.”
On keeping prolific scorer Asher Zubich maintained, McDonald said it was a team defensive effort that made things click.
“I thought we did a good job on him. He got some good shots off on us but we had a hand in his face the whole night. I think numerous guys did a pretty good job on him.”
Ely (1-0) will host Bigfork on Saturday while Mountain Iron-Buhl (0-1) travels to Deer River on Tuesday.
MIB 35 23 — 58
Ely 37 38 — 75
Ely: Joey Bianco 14, Brock LaTourell 10, Mason Davis 2, Emmett Faltesek 21, Will Davies 16, Harry Simons 12; Three pointers: Bianco 2, Latourell 2, Faltesek 2, Davies 3, Simons 1; Free throws: 9-15; Total fouls: 11; Fouled out: none.
Mountain Iron-Buhl: Braelyn Keith 2, Asher Zubich 15, Mason Klines 4, Jeffrey Kayfes 3, Riley Busch 12, Josh Holmes 9, Nik Jesch 13; Three pointers: Zubich 3, Busch 2, Kayfes 1, Holmes 1, Jesch 1; Free throws: 10-13; Total fouls: 17; Fouled out: none.