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Prep boys basketball: Bennett leads Superior past Hibbing

The Bluejackets showed some rust in their first game back from a three-week layoff.

Superior’s Curran Starry (5) fights for a loose ball with Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald (44)
Superior’s Curran Starry (5) fights for a loose ball with Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald (44) in the second half of the game Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, 2022, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Late in the first half Tuesday, Superior trailed Hibbing 34-29 with about a minute left before the break.

Spartan senior Evan Bennett scored nine unanswered points — including a four-point play — over the final minute to give his team a 38-34 lead at the half. The Spartans would use the sequence as a springboard for an 82-55 Lake Superior Conference home win.

“We talk about finishing halves, we talk about finishing games,” Superior coach Kory Deadrick said. “It was an excellent finish with a four-point play in there, some buckets, a steal — it was absolutely tremendous to have a lead at halftime, to have that momentum, and you saw it carry over in the second half.”

Superior’s Evan Bennett (22) shoots over Hibbing’s Dane Mammenga (5)
Superior’s Evan Bennett (22) shoots over Hibbing’s Dane Mammenga (5) in the first half of the game Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, 2022, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Bennett — who finished with a game-high 26 points — said the Spartans came out in the second half determined to increase the lead.

“We had a good first half, but we knew we could make the gap bigger in the second half,” Bennett said. “We came out with a lot of energy and we knew we had to attack the zone. They came out of it for a little bit and then we were just swinging the ball around, taking smart shots and converting.”

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Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald scored 18 first-half points, but had just five in the second half.

“We were just trying to throw a bunch of different at him,” Deadrick said. “We talked about him all week. We haven’t played since last Tuesday, so we’ve had time to prepare. We just threw physical guys at him. He played the whole game and we were rotating who was on him so we had a little bit of fresh legs.”

In the second half, the Bluejackets didn’t have a field goal for more the first nine minutes of the second half, a time when the Spartans’ lead ballooned from four at half to 21.

“We were happy with where we were about 17 minutes into the game with a five-point lead,” Hibbing coach Joel McDonald said. “It turned on us really quickly at the end of the half and we never got any of that momentum back. You’ve got to give Kory and his guys credit, they’re solid.”

Superior’s Shane Leask (12) connects on a three pointer
Superior’s Shane Leask (12) connects on a three pointer in the first half of the game Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, 2022, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Superior hit 16 3-pointers as a team — nine in the second half — with Shane Leask leading the way with six makes from long range and finishing with 18 points. Tanner Swanson scored 14 and Robert Olson scored 11 for the Spartans.

“I think that’s the best half we’ve played this year,” Deadrick said.

Rust a factor for Hibbing

Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald (44) slips past the Spartan defense
Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald (44) slips past the Spartan defense on his way to the hoop in the first half of the game Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, 2022, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The Bluejackets haven’t played together as a team since Jan. 4 after a couple of positive COVID tests forced them to take a break and McDonald has been out of the lineup since Dec. 30 after an ankle injury.

The rust showed throughout the game with passes that were off target and turnovers Hibbing usually avoids. Coach McDonald thought there were some communication problems and the players are “starting the season over from a conditioning perspective.”

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“We can simulate a game like this in practice, that’s a challenge for us — there’s no doubt about it,” coach McDonald said. “You try to go up and down, you try to get conditioned for game night, but when you hit the road and come down here and play a team like Superior, it’s going to be tough.”

Hibbing (7-3) will have to turn around for another tough game Saturday against Orono, the 10th-ranked AAA team in Minnesota.

“You know that game is going to move fast, so we’ve got to be ready,” coach McDonald said. “I was hoping we would be a little more mentally sharp today with our ability to take care of the ball, but we coughed it up a little bit too much.”

The Bluejackets play Orono at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at St. Michael-Albertville High School.

Superior (13-6) will play at Cloquet at 7:15 p.m. Friday.

This story was updated at 8:14 a.m. Jan. 26 to correct Evan Bennett's name. It was originally posted at 10:49 p.m. Jan. 25. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Hibbing 34-21—55

Superior 38-44—82

Hibbing — Zach Rusich 7, Curran Brown 10, Alex Chacich 8, Ethan Eskeli 2, Jacob Jensrud 2, Ayden McDonald 23, Drew Forer 3. Totals 19 13-16 55.

3-point goals — Rusich, Chacich 2, Forer.

Superior — Tanner Swanson 14, Shane Leask 18, Jake Kidd 4, Jeffrey Olson 6, Robert Olson 11, Evan Bennett 26, Andrew Olson 3. Totals 31 4-5 82.

3-point goals — Swanson, Leask 6, J. Olson 2, R. Olson, Bennett 5, A. Olson.

Superior’s Tanner Swanson (11) blocks a shot by Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald (44)
Superior’s Tanner Swanson (11) blocks a shot by Hibbing’s Ayden McDonald (44) in the second half of the game Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, 2022, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Superior’s Jake Kidd (15) lets a floater go over Hibbing’s Dane Mammenga (5)
Superior’s Jake Kidd (15) lets a floater go over Hibbing’s Dane Mammenga (5) early in the second half of the game Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, 2022, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Superior’s Evan Moreau (3) and Hibbing’s Dane Mammenga (5) fight for a rebound
Superior’s Evan Moreau (3) and Hibbing’s Dane Mammenga (5) fight for a rebound early in the second half of the game Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, 2022, in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Related Topics: BOYS BASKETBALLSUPERIORHIBBINGPREP SPORTS
Jamey Malcomb has been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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