NASHWAUK — Was COVID-19 going to bite the Nashwauk-Keewatin High School boys basketball team again?
Last year, the pandemic wiped out the Spartans championship game against North Woods, leaving an empty feeling in Nashwauk-Keewatin Country.
This time, Spartan coach Kyle Giorgi and his team did everything right to avoid getting bit again, but two players had to miss their Section 7A semifinal contest against Northland.
Missing two of its leading scorers and its best defensive player, Keegan Warmuth and Gaige Waldvogel picked up the slack in leading Nashwauk-Keewatin to a 60-51 7A semifinal victory over the Eagles at home Wednesday.
To say Spartan coach Kyle Giorgi was a little concerned is an understatement.
“I wouldn’t say nervous is the right word,” Giorgi said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that these guys were going to come out and play their hearts out and give it their all.
“It’s been an emotional week. We’re coming off the best game we played all year against Chisholm, and we were flying high.”
All that came crashing down with the COVID news.
“We got punched there, and that derailed us there,” Giorgi said. “The guys wanted to do this for them. We felt like we deserved it. They went out and played a heck of a game today.
“We got it done.”
That was evident from the opening tip-off.
The Spartans started the game with a 8-3 run, then made it 14-7.
At the 10:08 mark of the first half, Northland’s Harris Carlson drained a 3-pointer to score his 1,000th-career point, making the s
After all the excitement settled down, Nashwauk-Keewatin got baskets from Waldvogel and Warmuth to make it 18-10.
Warmuth would score six more points the rest of the way, and Justice Rebrovich and Jack Lorenz had a basket each as the Spartans took a 28-20 lead into halftime.
“They’re great players, and they played big today,” Giorgi said. “They all did. All of the guys that were out there played a heck of a game. Justice (Rebrovich) stepped into the starting lineup for the first time in his career, and he did a great job.
“He made some big plays. Every single one of these guys, all of the way down the roster, everybody played a role today. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys for their efforts.”
Nashwauk-Keewatin started breaking the game open early in the second half, going on a quick 8-0 run to make it 36-23, and the Eagles were in catch-up mode the rest of the way.
Warmuth added three points to the run, Daniel Clusiau hit a three and Waldvogel had a deuce
Northland did cut into that lead, getting within seven, 50-43 with six minutes to play, then to six, 52-46, with five minutes to play.
After a basket by Alec Wake, Northland was within four, 52-48, but Clusiau drove in for a layup and it was 54-48.
The Eagles made it 54-51, but Waldvogel hit a cold-blooded 2-pointer to give the Spartans a 56-51.
“That was huge,” Giorgi said. “That’s when the nerves started to kick in a little bit. They knocked down a couple outside shots, and they’re a good outside shooting team. You’re thinking that any point that you could catch them in a streak.
“Gaige came down, took a couple of dribbles to the right elbow, and hit that big jumper. That was cold-blooded. It was a big-time shot. It gave us a little more cushion, We made enough plays down the stretch to pull things out.”
After that, the Spartans ran out the game on a 8-3 run to advance into the 7A finals Friday against either North Woods or Deer River.
Warmuth led the way with 21 points. Waldvogel had 17 and Rebrovich 11.
Harris Carlson led Northland with 16. Alec Wake had 14 and Nathan Johnson 10.
NHS 20 31 — 51
NK 28 32 — 60
Northland: Harris Carlson 16, Carson Johnson 5, Aiden Carlson 6, Alec Wake 14, Nathan Johnson 10.
Nashwauk-Keewatin: Gaige Waldvogel 17, Daniel Clusiau 5, Justice Rebrovich 11, Keegan Warmuth 21, Jack Lorenz 6.
Total Fouls: Northland 5; Nashwauk-Keewatin 9; Fouled Out: None; Free Throws: Northland 4-10; Nashwauk-Keewatin 5-12; 3-pointers: Carlson 4, Carson Johnson, Aiden Carlson 2, Alec Wake 2, Waldvogel, Clusiau, Rebrovich.