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Prep boys basketball: Duluth East's Patrick Smith scores 21 in win over Duluth Denfeld

The Hunters made things much more difficult in the rematch against their crosstown rivals.

Duluth East pulls away from Duluth Denfeld
Duluth East's Patrick Smith, 31, goes up for a shot during the Greyhounds' 80-59 victory over Duluth Denfeld Thursday at East High School.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — It wasn’t until midway through the second half until Duluth East big man Patrick Smith got going against Duluth Denfeld, but the Greyhounds’ senior scored 21 points — 16 in the second half — to lead his team to a 80-59 home win over Duluth Denfeld Thursday.

Despite the score, the Hunters played their crosstown rivals much closer than their first contest and stayed within striking distance until Smith’s dominance in the paint began to take its toll. East topped the Hunters 88-46 on Dec. 19, with Smith and fellow big man Rocco Paulson scoring 18 each.

“The last time we played, we didn’t talk, we didn’t communicate,” Denfeld coach Phil Homere said. “I feel like we did that much better and I felt like we did better controlling the rebounding. Last time, the rebounding was like plus-30 for them and I feel like we cut that down a little bit. But dealing with that size, you have to get in position as far as boxing out.”

Duluth East pulls away from Duluth Denfeld
Duluth Denfeld junior Ethan Starstead goes up for a shot during the Hunters' loss to Duluth East Thursday.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

The Hunters used a 2-3 zone, forcing the Greyhound post players to get the ball further from the basket than they normally do. What’s more, the Greyhounds struggled shooting the ball from the perimeter and dealt with foul trouble in the first half.

“One of the other things that caused us some problems was the pace of play,” East coach Rhett McDonald said. “We were three steps behind in certain possessions early on in the game and we did a better job of that in the second half … I thought our kids played well, I thought we ground through it. We had some ugly possessions early, at times poor spacing, but the kids came in and played well.”

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McDonald also noted the Greyhounds bench played well and picked up contributions from a number of players, including Wyatt Johnson, Brennan Meyer and freshman Ty Nyberg.

Duluth East pulls away from Duluth Denfeld
Duluth East's Brennan Meyer drives to the basket during the Greyhounds 80-59 win over Duluth Denfeld Thursday.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

Denfeld’s MarNaries Ferguson led all scorers with 23 points and Homere said the sophomore’s play improved from the first game, when he struggled shooting from the field.

“He took all the same mid-range shots, they were just not falling,” Homere said. “That’s the best part of his game, as far as his pull-up jump shot or attacking the hoop. I think last time he didn’t attack as much, he settled for that pull-up jump shot. That was the difference between then and today.”

Duluth East pulls away from Duluth Denfeld
Duluth East senior Michael Kastelic drives the ball during the Greyhounds' home win over Duluth Denfeld Thursday.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

The Hunters are playing well and McDonald is looking forward to seeing what Denfeld can do in the Section 7AAA tournament.

“They’re a good team, that’s a good win for us,” McDonald said. “I think so many people underestimate that group, just simply due to the last couple years, but Phil’s got them playing really hard. You can see that they’re starting to buy in and starting to believe, which is a credit to them — they’re going to be ready to go for section play.”

Duluth East pulls away from Duluth Denfeld
Duluth Denfeld sophomore MarNaries Ferguson drives to the basket during the Hunters' loss to Duluth East Thursday.
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

Homere feels good about where the team is and excited about the final weeks of the regular season.

“We like where we’re at because we know there’s so much more room for improvement,” Homere said. “We’re making progress in the right direction. I think that’s what I really look forward to, I can see what kind of team we could be. We’re just not there yet, but I feel like we’re going to get there because we’re continuously making strides in the right direction.”

East (10-3) will play Section 7AAAA opponent Cambridge-Isanti at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Duluth.

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Denfeld (7-9) will play at Hermantown at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Duluth Denfeld 30-29—59

Duluth East 39-41—80

Duluth Denfeld — Aiden Altona 14, Ethan Starstead 10, Lee Brooks 5, MarNaries Ferguson 23, Finnley Powell 5, Joshua Rock 2. Totals 21 13-20 59.

3-point goals — Altona, Starstead 2, Powell.

Duluth East — Dillon Bement 3, Brennan Meyer 5, Wyatt Johnson 1, Ty Nyberg 8, Jobe Juenemann 15, Michael Kastelic 15, Patrick Smith 21, Rocco Paulson 10, Ben Schingen 2. Totals 30 9-18 80.

3-point goals — Bement, Meyer, Nyberg, Juenemann 3, Kastelic 5.

Jamey Malcomb has a 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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