Prep boys basketball: With the ball in his hands, Denfeld’s Ferguson makes defenses ‘uncomfortable’
The sophomore is averaging more than 18 points a game and the Hunters have already tripled their win total from last season.
DULUTH — There were times during Duluth Denfeld’s 87-70 win over Two Harbors Monday where Hunters sophomore Marnaries Ferguson seemed unstoppable.
Ferguson had 25 points against the Agates, but it was the pace and speed the Hunters played with that was the key. He finished with two assists, but also five steals and a block.
Those turnovers provided Ferguson and Denfeld the opportunity to do what they do best: “Get out and run,” according to coach Phil Homere.
“Marnaries understands that’s the strongest part of his game,” Homere said. “His quickness is going to make it tough for the defense to try to cut him off — that’s an advantage. He understands that when he has the ball in his hand, he needs to make them uncomfortable and just look to attack. I feel like he does a great job doing that.”
Two Harbors coach Bill Anderson said the Agates are typically “the fastest team on the court,” but the Hunters turned the tables on them.
In fact, Ferguson wasn’t even the leading scorer against Two Harbors. Junior Aidan Altona finished with 26 points, but he said the pair are always looking for that opening in their opponents’ defense.
“If we come out there and see the defense isn’t ready for us, we take advantage of that and go 100%,” Altona said. “Whether it’s me going first then him or him then me, we attack the defense right away and fast and that’s how you get points on the board.”
Through 21 games this season, Ferguson is averaging 18.3 points per game and Altona is averaging 17. The combination has allowed the Hunters to make dramatic improvement since last season.
Denfeld (9-12) has already tripled its win total from 2021-22 and Ferguson and Altona’s play has been a big part of that. Ferguson’s scoring average has increased by nearly six points and Altona’s has gone up more than 14.
While Ferguson said he tries to light up the scoreboard because it “makes my teammates’ job a lot easier,” Altona said it’s his ability to “create.”
“He’s very gifted, very talented — athletic, fast, all that,” Altona said. “Everyone sees him as a threat, but he’s able to create shots for other people and create shots for himself just with his athletic ability. It’s just really nice to see him out there attacking and making us better.”
Late in the first half, Two Harbors had sliced into the Denfeld lead to make it 32-31, but Ferguson engineered a 10-0 run to end the half.
“It seemed like every time we were able to make a little run, they answered with a two-on-one or a breakaway and they got an easy one,” Anderson said.
Even when the Agates tried to press and trap in the second half, the Hunters had an answer.
“We practice it all the time in practice,” Ferguson said. “Getting it to that open guy on the first pass, we should always break it. We have two shooters, either me or Aidan, and I got it to Aidan most of the time.”
While the Hunters might not contend for a state championship next month, they have just one senior and Ferguson is only in his second season of varsity basketball.
“The biggest thing is at times, we’re expecting so much from him,” Homere said. “But then we have to take a step back and realize this kid is only in 10th grade. The great part about it is he is a very coachable individual. We yell at him a lot, we get on him a lot, but at the end of the day, he produces what we want him to do. He’s willing to learn and that’s a great thing to have in a kid.”