Duluth Marshall basketball has garnered its fair share of headlines this winter.
With Gianna Kneepkens seemingly setting a scoring record every time she takes the court, the Hilltoppers girls team has been front-page news.
But, ever so quietly, the boys team has put together a solid season that reached new levels Thursday night with a 70-69 nonconference victory over high-flying Moose Lake-Willow River.
The Hilltoppers improved to 12-3 with their eighth consecutive victory, surviving a pair of missed layups in the final frenetic seconds to raise their mark to 8-1 at home.
“The girls team started a whole culture shift at Marshall. Everyone wants to get better at basketball now,” junior Jasper Timm said after the game. “If everybody sees the girls team doing well, we want to be on the same level as them. It’s great to see Marshall basketball thriving.”
Jasper’s older brother, Oscar, jump-started a rally that began with the Hilltoppers trailing 59-46. The elder Timm scored off a steal, hit a pair of free throws, scored off an inbounds pass and connected on two 3-pointers to give Marshall a 68-65 lead with 1:25 to play.
The Rebels (11-3) responded with a Carter Johnson layup off an inbounds play and, after Jasper Timm hit two free throws, a Mason Olson driving layup cut Marshall’s lead to one with 10.7 seconds left.
Moose Lake-Willow River forced a five-second call, then missed a quick 3-pointer. After Marshall missed a one-and-one free throw, Olson drove the ball to the hoop again but his layup rolled off the rim and Johnson’s desperate follow-up at the buzzer missed as well.
“We had our opportunities tonight,” said Rebels assistant Will Carlson, who was filling in for head coach Wes Cummins. “We had about five chances at the end to tie it up or win it, it just didn’t work out. Marshall had a really good game plan for us and they executed more than we did.”
Olson ended with a game-high 26 points and made six 3-pointers.
Eighth-grader Brooks Johnson paced Marshall with 19 points and canned five 3-pointers. Oscar Timm added 18 points and Jasper Timm contributed 14.
“Our guys believed in themselves and in each other,” Marshall coach Tom Mitchell said. “We’re really good when we play together and share the ball and take care of each other.”
Mitchell says the success of the girls program, which won a Class AA state quarterfinal game last March before the season shut down, has bolstered the boys.
“In four years of varsity coaching, I haven’t had a team as hungry as this one,” he said. “This team wants it and they put it out on the floor every single night. The girls have a phenomenal program, and that’s something we want to emulate.”
That would mean making their own state tournament, something the Hilltoppers achieved only once, in 2002.
“We’re looking at going to state, and expect nothing less,” Jasper Timm said. “We’re working hard every single day to achieve that goal.”
Comeback performances such as Thursday often kickstart a team’s run to the postseason, which begins in less than two weeks. The Rebels could be standing in Marshall’s way in Section 7AA, but rallying from 13 points behind late in the game will certainly give the Hilltoppers confidence in any potential rematch.
“That’s the emotional and mental maturity of this team to not get flustered and keep chipping away,” Mitchell said of the comeback. “We could have packed it in several times and called it a night, but we didn’t do that. We were emotionally and mentally mature, and that made the difference.”
Moose Lake-WR 33-36—69
Duluth Marshall 28-42—70
Moose Lake-Willow River — Phillip Sheetz 11, Sam Dewey 1, Brady Watrin 10, Landin Kurajetz 2, Chance Lunde 2, Mason Olson 26, Drew Danielson 6, Carter Johnson 9, Alex Watrin 2. Totals 25 7-10 69.
3-point goals — Sheetz 3, Olson 6, Danielson 2, Johnson.
Duluth Marshall — Jasper Timm 14, Mason Boos 9, Brooks Johnson 19, Alex Olson 10, Oscar Timm 18. Totals 28-58 4-5 70.
3-point goals — Boos, Johnson 5, Olson 2, O. Timm 2.