SECTION 3A BOYS BASKETBALL: Chargers claim Section 3A crown over Blackjacks

Photo by Jake Przytarski Members of the Westbrook-Walnut Grove boys basketball team celebrate after receiving their Section 3A Championship plaque. WWG defeated Dawson-Boyd 80-72.

MARSHALL – For the first time in over two decades, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers will be competing in the state basketball tournament after defeating the Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks 80-72 in the Section 3A finals on Friday.

According to Coach Derrick Jenniges, the impact of the victory extends beyond the players and into the communities of Westbrook and Walnut Grove, who have collectively been waiting for this moment for 25 years.

“It’s not just about the kids it’s about the whole community,” said Jenniges. “It’s been 25 years since we played in the state tournament at WWG and this group of guys really came together. They really came together. They dealt with a lot of adversity through injuries, illnesses and the weather and we just can’t be prouder.”

Reflecting on the team’s performance, Jenniges pointed to the efficiency on offense as one of the keys to the Chargers victory.

“I thought we were fairly efficient offensively,” Down the stretch we made the free throws and we were able to get ourselves a nice cushion in the first half to give us some wiggle room.”

Strong shooting lifts Chargers early

A better start could not be scripted for the Chargers as sharp-shooters Andrew Quade and Ethan Mishke made their presence felt early in the game with eight of the team’s first nine points en route to an early 9-6 lead over the Blackjacks.

Utilizing textbook back-door cut passes, the Chargers made the most of nearly every offensive possession all the way to the midway point of the first half and pushed its lead to 17-10 following a Parker Freeburg basket. The center would finish the half with five points.

Down the stretch WWG remained in complete control of the flow of the game and took full advantage pushing its lead to its highest mark of 13 with the score 31-18 following a three-pointer by Quade. The senior would finish the half in double-figures with 12 points, while Mischke paced the club with 15.

Durfee guides

late-half comeback

With the shots not falling for the Blackjacks for most of the first half, the team needed someone to step up and breathe life into the offense–enter Zach Durfee. After trailing by double-digits, the junior utilized exceptional shooting from beyond the arc to slowly chip away at the deficit and provided the fuel for a first half comeback.

Trailing 34-21 late in the half, Durfee knocked down his first of three three-pointers to spark the offense. The effort proved pivotal as the Blackjacks would use the momentum to make it a two possession game at the buzzer with the score 38-32 and beginning to seize control of the game.

Second-half battle

Out of the half the two teams began to show off their defensive capabilities and kept the scoring to a minimum early on. The offensive lull would be short-lived, however, as both clubs began to catch fire from beyond the arc creating a back-and-forth sequence culminating in a combined four threes in the next four possessions with the Chargers still out in front 63-58.

The Blackjacks battled to knot the game up, coming within a single possession late in the game with the score 73-70 following a Romell Horton scoop and score. Unfortunately for Dawson-Boyd, that would be the closest they would come to catching the Chargers, as WWG made the most of their multiple trips to the charity stripe and held on to win the game 80-72.