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Spartan boys take over first in LSC

The Superior High School boys basketball team faced off against the Ashland Oredockers Friday night in the SHS gym in a battle between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Lake Superior Conference.

The Superior High School boys basketball team faced off against the Ashland Oredockers Friday night in the SHS gym in a battle between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Lake Superior Conference.

The Spartans got off to a fast 17-0 start and never relinquished their lead as they won 74-51.

Superior now holds a 13-2 overall record and is 7-0 in LSC play. Ashland drops to 8-6 overall and 5-2 in conference play.

"Our kids played well, they played hard," SHS coach Dave Kontny said. "They knew this was a big game, a four-point game. Ashland was fired up to play, and it was the same thing for them. They win, they basically win the conference championship. We win, it basically puts us back in our own destiny. So we're a long ways away from any conference championship, but this is a good step in the right direction."

Superior now leads the LSC with 20 points. The win puts Superior on track to claim its third consecutive LSC title, but the Spartans also suffered a setback in the game.

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At 7:14 in the second half, senior guard Dustin Ritchie went up in a group and came down wrong on his right ankle. Ritchie left the game and his ankle was promptly wrapped and iced on the sidelines.

"Anytime you sprain your ankle it's going to be anywhere from four to seven days," Kontny said after the game. "And that hurts, especially with a big game (Saturday) at Denfeld. Fortunately we have Ryan (Radzak) back, but Ritchie isn't the kind of guy you just replace easily."

Despite sitting out for a large portion of the second half, Ritchie still led the Spartans in scoring with 15 points, including two 3-pointers.

Luke Magnuson, a junior, led the Oredockers with 14 points. He, along with senior Rick Bretting, were instrumental in getting Ashland back in the game.

Down 30-4 with about five minutes left to play in the first half, the Oredockers then went on a 10-0 run to make it 32-14 at halftime. Bretting hit a pair of 3-pointers in the stretch and finished the game with 10 points.

"I think they got a little bit more confident and made a couple of outside shots, but we never really gave them any good looks all night," Kontny said. "The baskets they got they earned."

Ashland struggled to make its shots in the first 10 minutes but had better luck in the second half.

After trailing by as many as 23 points, the Oredockers hit a 3-pointer and a fast-break layup to make it 45-29 with 12:29 left to play. The Spartans answered, though, and Ashland was never able to get any closer.

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For the game, SHS hit seven 3-pointers, with Ritchie and Brent Engstrom each hitting two apiece. Bretting and Magnuson each hit a pair of 3-pointers to account for all of the Oredocker's shots from behind the arc. At the free throw line, Ashland was more accurate, making 9-of-12 shots to 9-of-17 for Superior.

But the key to Superior's win was balanced scoring. Following Ritchie with 15 points, Keegan O'Neill scored 13 and Joel Lindberg added 10 points and four steals. Ritchie also led the team in rebounding with seven boards.

Garret Wessberg had a strong effort for SHS with eight points, four steals and a number of key rebounds.

"I thought we got good inside play from Wessberg. He played extremely well," Kontny said. "He played good defense, got some points for us, got to the foul line. But our balance again was superb."

Radzak had seven points and six rebounds, Engstrom and Matt Peterson both added six points each, Chris Blake scored five points and Joe Reichert had four. Five different Spartan players had at least five assists.

"That's team basketball right there," Kontny said. "When you've got to defend nine guys like tonight, not many teams can defend nine guys.

"But tomorrow's another day. Anything can happen in the game of basketball. We've got to get refocused for tomorrow."

The Spartan boys play at Duluth Denfeld at 1:30 p.m. today in an LSC match-up.

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