Spartans split 'Slam Dunk Cancer' games
The second annual Slam Dunk Cancer event at Superior High School lived up to its billing Tuesday as an exciting night of basketball.
Duluth East and Superior split the evening’s games, with the Greyhound boys winning 43-42 and the Spartan girls winning 69-50.
The boys game continued what has been a series of nail-biters between Duluth East and Superior. The last three matches have been decided by a combined total of four points.
For the Greyhounds, Tuesday’s victory avenged their one-point loss to Superior at last year’s Slam Dunk Cancer event.
“We’ve been in that situation a lot this year where we actually have not closed out the deal,” said Rhett McDonald, Duluth East head coach. “Today, along with yesterday, we’re finding ways to win instead of finding ways to lose.”
Aaron Maslowski gave Duluth East the win Tuesday when he knocked down a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, but the Greyhounds nearly squandered their chance for victory after leading 15-4 in the first quarter.
Duluth East had three 3-pointers in the opening quarter and held Superior to a pair of inside shots, but the Spartans surged back in the second quarter. Matthew O’Shaughnessy led the way with a pair of 3-pointers, and Jeb Kimmes added a pull-up jumper to give Superior eight unanswered points in the first 1:30 of the second quarter.
By halftime it was a four-point game, but Duluth East maintained its lead through the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Superior went on an 8-2 run to tie the game. Jake Libal scored seven points during the run with two layups and a 3-pointer. His final layup at 2:32 tied the score at 40-40.
Libal gave Superior the lead a minute later with a free throw, and Brett Lozon’s free throw with 36 seconds left made it 42-40, Superior.
The Greyhounds then set up to get the ball inside, but McDonald saw Maslowski at the left wing and told him to take the shot.
“When he was over on my side I told him to knock it down, and I don’t think he was quite ready for it yet,” McDonald said. “So he didn’t have to think about it and it just went in.
“Sometimes basketball works out that way. Sometimes it’s very strategic, and sometimes you pull a rabbit out of a hat.”
Superior tried to set up a play in the final 18 seconds but was unable to get off a good shot.
“I thought we played extremely hard tonight,” said Jake Smith, head coach of the Spartans. “I know some of the kids feel bad because of one missed free throw at the end, or a missed shot here or a missed shot there, but the game never comes down to just one play. It’s the course of the game.”
The defeat marked Superior’s seventh straight loss, with three of those games decided by five points or less.
“The one thing that I’m most proud of is that the kids’ attitudes are extremely good,” Smith said. “Nobody’s hanging their heads or feeling sorry for themselves. They continue to battle and work hard.”
In the girls game, Superior led 33-21 at halftime and then scored 23 points in the third quarter to pull away.
Three players finished in double figures for Superior, including sophomore Mackenzie Kmecik, who just returned to action this week.
“It’s nice having Mackenzie Kmecik back. She just got cleared (Monday) and played in the Hermantown game,” said Phil Roe, SHS girls head coach. “As people could see she’s a big difference maker.”
Kmecik had been out since injuring her shoulder in Superior’s 78-43 victory over Hudson on Jan. 3. She scored a career high 26 points in that game.
“I separated my shoulder, though,” Kmecik said. “That was the downside.”
In her return Monday, Kmecik scored two points, and Tuesday against the Greyhounds she finished with 14. The sophomore said she feels some pain in her shoulder, but not much.
The Spartans also recently welcomed back Rachal Fregin, who was out with an illness, and Taylor Nelson, who played Monday for the first time since suffering an injury last year.
“We finally got Rachal back, we have Mackenzie back and Taylor Nelson just got cleared, so we’re at full strength for really the first time all season,” Roe said.
Superior plans to utilize its full roster tonight at Eau Claire Memorial.
The Old Abes are 8-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Rivers Conference. The team’s only losses this season came to Chippewa Falls and D.C. Everest.
“Memorial’s a tough team that likes to trap and press and throw things at you,” Roe said. “We’re going to be ready for them, but it should be a good game to see where we’re at.”
Eau Claire Memorial is the only sectional team Superior has yet to face this season. If the Spartans win, they will be 7-0 against teams in their sectional playoff bracket.
“I feel like it’s going to be a good game, but if we play like we have been we should be able to come out with a win,” Kmecik said.
SPARTAN SPIN: Superior boys freshman coach Rick Raymond recorded his 50th consecutive win Tuesday night as the Spartan freshmen defeated the Greyhounds. “I think ever since he’s been the freshman head coach he has yet to lose,” Smith said. “This is his third year now, so big shout-out to him. I’m sure he will continue to bring success year in and year out. He does a nice job with those kids.”
Duluth East 15 7 16 5 — 43
Superior 4 14 14 10 — 42
Duluth East — Will Heyer 16, Chaz McBeath 12, Aaron Maslowski 9, Ryan Downing 4, Joe Yernatich 2.
3-point goals — Heyer 3, Maslowski 3.
Superior — Jake Libal 10, Jeb Kimmes 7, Matthew O’Shaughnessy 6, Jon Lindberg 6, Brett Lozon 5, Carter Anderson 4, Connor Gray 2, Devon Rivord 2.
3-poing goals — O’Shaughnessy 2, Kimmes, Libal, Anderson.
Duluth East 14 7 15 14 — 50
Superior 20 13 24 12 — 69
Duluth East — Hannah Johnson 14, Liz Libbon 10, Mia Anderson 6, Rachel Weyenberg 5, Danielle Cieluch 5, Veronica Rudolph 3, Erica Churchill 3, Jada Olson 2, Josie Flesvig 2.
3-point goals — Libbon 2, Cieluch, Weyenberg, Rudolph, Anderson.
Superior — Jessica Lindstrom 20, Hailey Kontny 16, Mackenzie Kmecik 14, Alyssa Correll 9, Rachal Fregin 6, Malley O’Brien 2, Taylor Phillips 2.
3-point goals — Kmecik 3, Fregin 2, Kontny, Lindstrom, Correll.