Mariners end season in playoffs, coach hopeful that next year will be even better
With time running down and facing a two point deficit, Silver Bay junior Jason Blood pulled up for a go ahead 3-pointer, but the shot came up short and clanged off the front of the rim and the Mariners went on to lose to Lakeview Christian Academy 39-34 in the Section 7A quarterfinals Saturday in Romano Gym at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
"He was so close," Silver Bay coach Terry Blood said. "He got some good looks. Even in the second half, that was a good look, he can hit that shot."
The play was a microcosm of the rest of the game, with Silver Bay playing outstanding defense against the sharpshooting Lions, but even good looks at point blank range for the Mariners just didn't fall.
"Our defense was good enough for us to win," Terry Blood said. "We haven't shot very well lately and that hurt us."
The Mariner offense struggled throughout the game, managing only five field goals in the first half and just 12 in the game, but the defense hounded LCA ball handlers all night. Freshmen Riley Tiboni and Mason Ollman harassed Josh Reinertson, the Lions' leading scorer, throughout the game, forcing him to pass out of traps and putting the ball into other players hands. On the few occasions where the defenders lost track of Reinertson, he was able to burn the Mariners by burying a 3-pointer.
Silver Bay as a team caused numerous turnovers, forcing traveling violations, picking off passes or just by tying up an LCA player down low and forcing a jump ball. Even when the result wasn't a turnover, hustle plays by the Mariners forced the Lions to reset their offense and start over.
"The kids played good defense and they filled in, it was a good group effort," Terry Blood said. "We just didn't make our shots, but everything else, the tempo, the structure of it, the ball pressure was perfect. We just didn't make those we needed to make."
After a sluggish first half that ended with Silver Bay down by a score of 18-17, LCA put together a little run and went up 35-25 with less than five minutes to play on Lance Puffer's second 3-pointer of the half.
Silver Bay's offense came to life for the first time in the game, scoring nine straight with Jerry Congious III hitting his third triple of the game and cutting the LCA lead to 35-34 with less than two minutes to play.
Reinertson was fouled on the next trip down the floor and made 1-of-2 free throws to set the stage for Jason Blood's potential go ahead shot. The shot fell short and after a made shot by Jonny Emerson, the Mariners were forced to foul and wouldn't get another look as good as Jason Blood's shot.
Jason Blood led all scorers with 13 points and Congious ended up with nine on three 3-point shots. Other scorers for Silver Bay included: Ollman with four points; David Schober and Hunter Monson with three each; and Weston Monson with two.
Silver Bay (14-11) exceed most expectations this year with a younger team that lost its leading scorer from last season in Michael Fischer and inside presence in Matt Barker. Jason Blood, however, stepped up to fill in the scoring gap and the emergence of younger players including sophomore Weston Monson as well as Tiboni and Ollman allowed Terry Blood to give seniors like Congious, Hunter Monson and Zach Lewis rest and keep the rest of the team fresh during late game situations.
"We had young kids that started to play better and that gave us depth," Terry Blood said. "Going into next year you've got four kids who played a ton that are coming back."
In addition, with a year of experience and a summer of working out for young players like Tiboni, Ollman and Weston Monson, there is a strong core of players returning next season who can provide speed, defense and, in the case of Monson, has a good passing touch.
"I think the kids like that are smart basketball players and they're gym rats," Terry Blood said. "They play constantly and they learn on the fly."
In addition, the Mariners junior varsity squad came together over the last half of the season, going 7-2 over the final nine games of the season. Jared DeHart and Zach Blood will both look to move up to the varsity squad next season and provide even more speed and shooting. Terry Blood hopes the additional speed will allow Silver Bay to play more man-to-man defense and the better shooting on the wings will spread the floor more for forwards to work on the low block.
"You watch, we'll be better next year than we were this year," he said.