Milaca edged Princeton 67-65 in a Granite Ridge Conference boys basketball game Thursday, Feb. 14, at Milaca.
The schools have had many down-to-the-wire clashes in their long rivalry and this one fit right into that category. The outcome was up in the air until Princeton junior Jack Sinkel’s shot with two seconds left was off the mark.
The Wolves, who swept their two-game series against the Tigers in Princeton’s final year in the GRC, got off to a quick start and led 19-6 with 10:35 left in the first half.
Princeton chipped away and cut the margin to 31-28 at halftime.
“We started well but Princeton took advantage of some turnovers and got right back into the game,” said Milaca Coach Dustin Naumann.
A three-point play and a pair of free throws by senior center Matt Wendorff pulled the Tigers even at 58-58 with 3:06 left to play.
With 1:43 remaining, Sinkel put Princeton ahead 62-60.
Junior guard Justin Fransen’s three-pointer gave Milaca a 63-62 lead with 1:27 to go and sophomore Mike Garber’s basket and two free throws by junior center Matt VanSomeren made it 67-62 with 36 seconds left.
Princeton junior guard Caleb Scharber sank a three-pointer to make it 67-65 with 20 seconds left and a turnover gave the Tigers the ball and another chance.
But, Milaca held on to score its second tight GRC victory of the week.
“Princeton did a nice job of making us work for our shots but I was happy with our guys being patient and working the ball for the best shot on most possessions,” said Naumann. “Another key was allowing Princeton just four offensive rebounds
“We always talk about limiting teams to one shot and our guys did a great job of doing that.”
Garber, who made nine of 11 shots from the field, scored 21 points and added 12 rebounds and five assists.
Fransen, who sank three three-pointers, had 15 points, sophomore forward Nick Wolbert scored 12 and VanSomeren had eight.
“This was another game where our scoring balance came through,” said Naumann.
Milaca shot 49 percent (27-55) from the field and had a 34-27 edge in rebounds.
Wendorff led the Tigers with 22 points while Sinkel and Scharber each had 11.
Princeton made 17 of 20 free throws while Milaca was just nine of 22.
“We need to do better at the line but we did make some with the pressure on down the stretch,” said Naumann.
Milaca moved to 3-10 in GRC play and 7-13 overall. Princeton dropped to 4-9 in GRC games and 5-17 overall.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Milaca topped Zimmerman 70-66 at Milaca.
The Wolves led 33-22 at halftime, then held the Thunder off in the second half.
“We had just one turnover in the first half and our executions was very good,” said Naumann. “In the second half we allowed then too many second-chance points and that got them back into the game.”
Fransen, who had three three-pointers, led Milaca with 17 points while Garber scored 16, VanSomeren had 14, Wolbert scored 11 and junior guard Brian Kiel had nine points. VanSomeren also had 15 rebounds and was 8-8 at the free-throw line.
Milaca made 23 or 32 free throws. The Wolves had 10 total turnovers.
“Making free throws and taking care of the basketball were keys,” said Naumann. “It was nice to show Zimmerman that we weren’t the same team they beat by 30 points earlier in the season.”
The Thunder, 4-9 in GRC games and 8-14 overall, was led by senior forward Jake Wilson’s 24 points and 20 points from junior guard Noah Lunning.
“For the week we scored two wins over Class AAA teams in which we really had to work hard for,” added Naumann. “I was very proud of the toughness we showed and look forward to that same focus over the next two weeks as we close out the regular season.”
The Wolves went into this week’s play ranked fifth among eight teams in the North Sub-Section of Section 5AA, just behind Foley. Milaca hosts the Falcons tonight (Thursday) at 7:30, then hosts Becker Friday night, also at 7:30.
The Wolves are home for a pair of non-conference games next week. They face Maple Lake Tuesday, Feb. 26, and Rockford Thursday, Feb. 28.