By Ryan Schleicher - Sun Focus Newspapers
The Fridley Tigers continue to scratch and claw their way through the regular season improving to a .500 record as the schedule advances into the last third of the regular season.
Fridley (7-7, 2-5) has shown at times this season that they are legitimate Conference Contender boasting a shutdown defense to some of the most powerful teams in the North Suburban Conference. That defense was on display last week against Benilde-St. Margaret’s as the Tigers held them below 50 points but still couldn’t find a way to get the win.
Defense was imperative as the Tigers were having trouble scoring the basketball and as a result let Benilde-St. Margaret’s slip through the cracks in a 49-47 loss.
Amane Akane from Fridley scored a game-high 15-points out of the four total players for the game who ended up with double-digit points. Other players scoring double-digit points in the game were Michael Murray from Fridley (11) and two Benilde-St. Margaret’s players, Nick Birney (13) and Sam Lynch (11). Fridley quickly had to forget about a tough loss and focus on St. Anthony Village.
Once again, stellar defense was on display but this game however saw a bit more ease on the offensive side of things for Fridley as they had ten different players record a bucket with Chaney Pal scoring a team high 13-points. Mike Studer from St. Anthony Village had a game high 22-points but that failed in comparison to the offensive distribution the Tigers displayed en route to their 77-55 victory. Fridley will play on the road against Irondale (7-9, 3-4) on Friday, tip-off is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
Hylanders hold their own
Columbia Heights have gone 1-1 over their last two games defeating St. Francis 85-72 and falling to Totino-Grace 53-51. Columbia Heights now has a record of 11-5 in conference, and a 5-2 conference record, good enough to secure third spot in the North Suburban Conference, two games behind shared leaders Robbinsdale-Cooper and St. Louis Park who both have seven in conference wins.
Against St. Francis, Dominique Galloway stole the show for Columbia Heights by scoring a game high 30-points en route to their victory. In all, the Hylanders had four players reach double-digit points. In addition to Galloway, Deon Sanstad scored 22-points, Colton Williams had 13-points, and Martice Craemer had 10-points. Scoring for Columbia Heights slowed down when they took on Totino-Grace.
In this game, it was Sanstad who put up a game high 20-points followed by Galloway with 16-points. Columbia Heights appeared to be in the driver’s seat at halftime as they went into the locker room holding a ten point advantage over the Eagles. Michael Waters from Totino-Grace decided that he wanted to take over the driver’s seat himself en route to his team high 19-points that led the way for a 12-point comeback and a two point victory that set Columbia Heights back on their heels and left everyone stunned.
The best way to alleviate the taste of defeat is to compensate it with a convincing victory and the Hylanders will get that opportunity on Friday when they play host to Benilde-St. Margaret’s (6-9, 3-4) at 7:15 p.m. in an important North Suburban Conference matchup for both teams as they enter the final month of the regular season.
Iron clad is Irondale
The Irondale Knights continue to raise eyebrows in the North Suburban Conference as a potential sleeper team that could really wreak havoc on teams who aren’t ready to show up and play come conference tournament time. Irondale who has gone 1-1 over their last two games convincingly beat the Totino-Grace Eagles 69-43 behind a game high 28-points from leading team scorer Jack Martinek.
Jonny Nguyen and Ben Ojika recorded 14-points apiece as well en route to the victory. Interestingly enough, Totino-Grace had a total of nine different player’s record a bucket but only Reggie Meyer (10) was able to reach double-digit points. With a bit of momentum rolling, Robbinsdale –Cooper rolled into town and the stage was set for a showdown of the number one and number two scoring threats in the North Suburban Conference.
Rashad Vaughn leads the conference averaging just under 28-points per game with Martinek averaging just under 25-points per game which is good enough for second spot in the conference. These two did not disappoint. Irondale knew Vaughn was coming and threw everything at him to slow him down. Vaughn was able to score 23 points, more than any other player in the game while Martinek netted 20 points of his own. Ojika from Irondale tossed in 14-points of his own but the difference in this game was the offensive potency of Robbinsdale-Cooper.
In addition to Vaughn’s 23-points, Billy Kellogg from Robbinsdale-Cooper scored 13-points and Lavar McCullough scored 12-points with two more players (Brandon Robinson, Darrious Denson) just missing double-digit points by scoring eight en route to their 21-point victory. Irondale Head Coach John DeMars knows he has a team that can look very good and if they can find the right combination they will definitely be a team to keep an eye on in the North Suburban Conference tournament.
Before that however, Irondale will try and better their conference standing when they host Fridley (7-7, 2-5) at 7:15 p.m. on Friday night.
Tough as nails
Unfortunately things just don’t come easy all the time and the Fridley Tigers found that out over their last three games going winless against some of the fiercest competition they’ve had to face.
First was a home game against first-place Robbinsdale-Cooper in the North Suburban Conference. The Tigers were not much of a battle as Robbinsdale-Cooper displayed why they are a top team in the state and how true their 13-5 overall and 9-0 in conference records are by downing the Tigers 73-32. For Fridley, Brooke Teff led the way scoring 13-points which is a bright spot to have someone new step up with the hot-hand. North Suburban’s third best per game scorer Talayiah Rich proved her worth by scoring 16-points, a total unmatched by any other player.
Fridley then hosted second-place conference team Benilde-St. Margaret’s (12-6, 8-1) who showed no mercy taking care of the Tigers 63-20. And most recently, the Tigers put up a valiant effort against Concordia Academy but fell 46-37. Michala Walther scored 19-points en route to Concordia’s victory. One very bright spot for the Fridley Tigers continues to be Samantha Martinson, North Suburban Conference’s third-best rebounder averaging nearly seven per game. Martinson recorded 10 rebounds against Concordia Academy. Fridley will play host to Irondale Friday night looking for their first conference win of the season. Tip-off is at 7:15 p.m.
Still looking up
Columbia Heights (5-12, 1-8) continues to look up the North Suburban Conference standings going winless over their last two games. Columbia Heights fell to Totino-Grace 70-48 and St. Agnes 51-42. In the Totino-Grace game Sewa Ifonlaja and Nene Dixon scored 12-points apiece for the Hylanders. Totino-Grace was just too much for Ifonlaja and Dixon to overcome.
The Eagles had 12 different players score points in the victory, led by team star Madison Soukup and her game high 16-points. Columbia Heights had to quickly forget about Totino-Grace and move on to another challenge in St. Agnes, a challenge that was just too large. Columbia Heights put up a decent effort keeping the game close throughout but unfortunately St. Agnus was just too much as they claimed the victory by nine points.
The schedule does not get any easier for the Hylanders as they will travel to take on second high leading scorer Grace Coughlin and the rest of the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights (12-6, 8-1) on Friday night at 7:15 p.m.
Down to the wire
The Irondale Knights continue to show their resiliency this season by going 1-1 over their last two games. First came a game against crosstown rival Totino-Grace where the Knights were able to pull off a 50-42 victory over the Eagles.
Irondale looked shaky in the first half of this game only managing to score 15-points before halftime. A strong defensive effort kept them in the game as they trailed by four to open up the second half. That is when Irondale’s own big-three sprung into action. Stephanie Meyer scored a team high 12-points while Brooke Degelau and Delaney Kohler both added 10-points of their own.
Madison Soukup from Totino-Grace kept pace and desperately tried to keep her team in it as she scored a game high 16-points. In the end, Meyer, Degelau, and Kohler just proved to be too much and grounded the Eagles for good by helping tally 35-second half points en route to their win.
Business picked up last Friday for Irondale as they looked to make a huge shakeup in the North Suburban Conference and pull of what would be a major upset by defeating first place Robbinsdale-Cooper.
This game had everything a fan could want. Drama, a score that went back and forth, high intensity play, and a game that came down to the wire giving Robbinsdale-Cooper their biggest scare to date is what fans inside the Robbinsdale-Cooper High School Gymnasium were treated to.
Irondale looked in complete control as the teams headed into the halftime with the Knights up by 17 points. But then, the leading scorer in the North Suburban Conference took over the game and brought her team back — Talayiah Rich from Robbinsdale-Cooper. Rich scored a game high 31-points to close the gap on Irondale — who started to panic as the pendulum started to swing away from their favor. Those points by Rich, in addition to Chelsey McGee’s 22-points brought the Hawks storming back and with a few precious seconds left to tick off the clock, Robbinsdale-Cooper survived a scare and won 64-63.
Irondale should feel proud going toe-to-toe with the toughest team in the North Suburban Conference—cause they almost achieved what no other North Suburban team has done yet this year, down the Hawks. Irondale (7-11, 5-4) will be traveling to Fridley to take on the Tigers at 7:15 p.m. inside the gymnasium at Fridley High School.