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Balanced Hunters down the Spartans

Jed Carlson / Superior’s Xavier Patterson (11) glides to the hoop in the first half of the Spartans loss to Duluth Denfeld in Superior on Tuesday night. 1 / 7
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A well-balanced Duluth Denfeld Hunters boys basketball team defeated the Superior High School Spartans 80-69 Tuesday night in the SHS gym.

The Hunters (2-1) had three players score in double figures — Jaden Burse and Ben Gibson had 17 points apiece and Chance Larson added 13. Right behind were Yunus Hunter with nine points and Antonio Mack had eight.

“Going in we knew Denfeld has been getting better and better over the years and is a top-tier team in our league,” SHS coach Jake Smith said. “They are very athletic, which makes them tough to guard, and they also use their athleticism with good defensive pressure which resulted in a lot of turnovers for us.

“The fix is simple — turnovers, rebounding and a little better defensively. Once those areas get addressed and fixed, we can be a very good basketball team.”

The Spartans were led by Mason Ackley and Xavier Patterson with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

Superior jumped out to a 7-2 lead on a Ben Rhodes 3-pointer and Cam Borgh basket, but Denfeld answered with a 12-0 run for a 14-7 lead, which led to Superior calling a time out with 12:50 on the clock.

The Spartans eventually regained a 23-22 lead on a 3-pointer by Owens, but Denfeld quickly took the lead back on a Gibson basket.

That started a Denfeld 10-2 run and a 32-25 lead.

Superior managed to get within 33-31 on an Ackley 3-pointer, but Denfeld ended the first hall with Josh Reinertsen and Antonio Mack baskets for a 37-31 advantage.

“They really got into us and made us feel uncomfortable with the basketball at times, causing multiple turnovers and easy scores on the other end,” Smith said. “But I also thought we shot the ball decent as a team and had multiple players shoot 50 percent or better.”

Denfeld’s lead went to 42-31 in the opening minute of the second half.

The closest Superior would get the rest of the game was six points (44-38) on an Ackley 3-pointer with 14:52 remaining.

The Hunters’ largest lead was 68-47 on a Jaden Burse free throw with 7:19 left.

A Kaleb Zentkowski basket with 24.1 left got Superior within 77-68, but Denfeld finished the victory with a basket and free throw by Burse.

“Facing pressure and turning the ball over has been the difference in all three of our games so far this season,” Smith said. “Once we can clean up the turnovers and get a little better at rebounding the basketball we will be just fine.

“We just can’t allow 75-plus points and expect to win any games. We have been scoring well — around 62 to 65 points a game — but guarding on the defensive end is something we will also focus our attention on in the coming day.”

The Spartans (0-3) host Chippewa Falls at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19.

SPARTAN SPIN: Denfeld also won the JV game 62-60. Joey Barker led Superior with 19 points and Willem McClellan added 12.

Duluth Denfeld.............. 37     43        —        80

Superior........................ 31     37        —        68

Duluth Denfeld — Josh Reinertsen 3, Antonio Mack 8, Jaden Burse 17, Joe Cvancara 6, Ben Gibson 17, Caden Rathke 2, Donny Northcutt 5, Chance Larson 13, Yunus Hunter 9. Totals: 32 11-27 80.

3-point goals — Cvancara 2, Burse, Gibson.

Superior — Mason Ackley 19, Xavier Patterson 18, Kaleb Zentkowski 2, Ben Rhodes 6, Elijah Owens 6, Cam Borgh 8, Corey Sanders 6, Beau Severson 3. Totals 26 6-9 68.

3-point goals — Ackley 4, Patterson 2, Rhodes 2, Owens 2.