Tigers claim regional title over Pirates

Grantsburg’s Tyrell Brande gets an open look at the basket against Webster. Brande led Grantsburg with 18 points. – Photo by Marty Seeger
With a 60-47 win over Grantsburg on Saturday, March 3, the Webster boys basketball team claimed their first regional championship since 2010. The Tigers will play in the sectional semifinal game against Clear Lake, at Amery, Thursday, March 8. – Photo by Eugene Sikorski

Webster 60, Grantsburg 47

Marty Seeger|Staff writer

GRANTSBURG – One of the most anticipated playoff games of the week unfolded in front of a capacity crowd on Saturday, March 3, for the regional championship between the co-conference champions of the West Lakeland. Webster and Grantsburg met for the third time after splitting the regular season, so there were no surprises entering this game.

“We knew we were going to have a battle on our hands. They knew us, we knew them. It was just going to come down to execution and sometimes, just grit,” said Webster coach Rob Scherrer.

Jack Washburn hits a layup and draws the foul for a two-and-one opportunity in the final shot that sealed the Tigers win gainst Grantsburg. – Photo by Marty Seeger

The Pirates came out firing early in the game with a 10-2 run but foul troubles crept up on Grantsburg quickly, as Pirates leading scorer John Chenal picked up his third with around seven minutes to play in the half. By that time, Webster had settled in defensively and managed to tie the game 14-14 on a free throw from Trevor Gustafson, who led the Tigers with 16 points on the night.

By that time the Pirates had closed in on their ninth foul. Leo Chenal, too, committed his third foul of the first half, but Grantsburg was still in it, trailing 22-19 at halftime.

Jack Washburn, Hunter Gustafson and Coleton Peterson help teammate Hunter Rosenbaum up and then off the court after a Grantsburg foul during the regional championship game on Saturday, March 3. – Photos by Eugene Sikorski unless otherwise noted

“We came out and did what we wanted to do to start the game and were playing well until we got into foul trouble. That was deflating for us, but we liked our chances going into the break only down three with John on the bench for the last six or seven minutes,” said Pirates coach Nick Hallberg.

 The second half was another grind for both teams but Grantsburg was never behind by more than five points through the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Pirates faced another round of adversity within the first two minutes as Tyrell Brande exited the game for several minutes after taking a hard fall.

Despite the foul troubles and injuries the Pirates battled back into the game and with 8:20 remaining Brande was back in the game and tied it 31-31 with a jump shot. But as the Tigers did throughout the night, they were able to respond. With 6:54 to go Coleton Peterson hit a pair to bring Webster ahead 33-31, but Grantsburg freshman Jared VanWatermeulen hit a shot to tie it back up again, 33-33. The tie was short-lived, however, as the Tigers responded big, going on an 8-2 run, sparked by a timely 3-pointer from Hunter Rosenbaum. The Pirates were unable to get the shot they needed in that span, and with 4:45 to go, Grantsburg took a timeout, trailing by nine.

“In the second half, we just could not get any of the good looks we wanted to get, and a lot of that had to do with Webster’s defense. We were able to get into a few things that we haven’t really run all year and got ourselves back into the game with about six minutes left, with Jared’s big shot,” Hallberg noted.

The Tigers extended their lead to 10 points with Hunter Gustafson hitting a two-and-one opportunity, which drew the fourth foul for Leo Chenal. With a commanding lead and just over three minutes to play, Brande came up with a pair of 3-pointers to pull the Pirates within four points at 2:43 left, but that’s as close as Grantsburg would get, and Webster was on their way to winning their first regional championship in eight years.

“I thought our inside game was the difference. I thought we really did a good job, at least holding John and Leo in check with our big guys,” Sherrer said, adding that Coleton Peterson, Hunter Gustafson and Austin Moser showed heart and desire, which allowed them to take control in the paint.

Sherrer also felt that his team prides itself on slashing the basket and pushing the tempo, which can wear teams out and eventually lead to fouls. The Tigers coach was pleased with how his players played offensively, with Jack Washburn chipping in 15 points, followed by Hunter Gustafson, 12, Peterson and Rosenbaum each had eight and Carson Stenberg added one.

“They’re long and zone is tough,” Sherrer said of Grantsburg’s defense, and he thought the Tigers had a few too many turnovers, but felt they moved the ball well and made timely shots. All of that and more will be needed this week as they face undefeated Clear Lake.

“I think we can definitely give them a run for their money,” Scherrer said of their game against the Warriors, which will be played at Amery on Thursday, March 8, starting at 7 p.m.

For the Pirates it’s the end of the season as they finished with a share of the conference title at 10-2, and 19-4 overall. They graduate just two seniors, Joseph Ohnstad and John Chenal.

“Lots of positives to hold onto for them and things that they’ll appreciate down the road,” said Hallberg of his Pirates team. “It goes without saying that we’d have liked to continue playing into March.  Would like to thank John and Joe for their commitment to this program and always being positive leaders and good teammates.  They’ve certainly left their mark on the program, going 51-19 as varsity players the last three years and winning the conference in their senior season. This team will miss John and Joe, no doubt, but there is a lot of talent coming back.”

Grantsburg 56, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser 40

GRANTSBURG – The Pirate boys opened up the WIAA regional on Friday, March 2, with a convincing win over No. 10 seeded Chetek-Weyerhaueser. Grantsburg starter and leading scorer John Chenal was limited due to illness, but other Grantsburg players managed to pick up the slack, leading 29-20 at the break.

“I really liked how we came out and competed to start the game without John on the floor. Not an easy thing to do when you take your best player off the floor, especially in an emotional game in the playoffs. John came in and gave us a little spark, along with a couple of big shots by Joe (Ohnstad) to create some separation going into halftime,” said coach Nick Hallberg.

Chenal still finished with 14 on a night of well-balanced scoring by Grantsburg. Tyrell Brande had 18 points and Ohnstad had 12, which all came from the outside. He had a pair of threes in the first half and two more in the second. Luke Anderson scored six, followed by Jared VanWatermeulen, four, Austin Wedin, three, and Leo Chenal, two.

“In the second half, we were able to increase the intensity on defense and really rattled them. On the offensive end for the night, we couldn’t have been any more balanced. A great way to start the tournament run and get into another regional championship tomorrow night,” Hallberg added.

Webster 69, Unity 51

GRANTSBURG – Familiar foes faced each other in the Division 4 regional semifinal on Friday, March 3, between Webster and Unity, who split games during the regular season. Unity beat Webster 59-42 in mid-January but the Tigers returned the favor in early February with a 50-45 victory.

The teams played to a packed house and it was another battle, particularly in the first half, as Webster led 28-27 at the break.

Unity ran into foul trouble in the game with three players fouling out.

Webster was 19 for 30 from the foul line and Unity hit 6 of 8 from the line.

The Tigers got a big night from junior Jack Washburn, who finished with 29 points, followed by Hunter Rosenbaum and Trevor Gustafson each with 10, Coleton Peterson, eight, Austin Moser, seven, Carson Stenberg, five, and Hunter Gustafson, two.

Logan Hendrickson had 18 points for the Eagles, followed by Jaxon Flaherty, 13, Cody Ince, eight, Landon Hendrickson, five, Cullen Feist, four, and Hunter Pederson, three.

Unity ended their season third in the conference at 8-4, and finished 14-9 overall. They graduate several seniors key to their success this season. They include Ince, Pederson, Logan Hendrickson, Landon Hendrickson, Daniel Ebensperger, Brandon Juleen, Dillion Merrill, Aaron Nyberg and Eli Dikkers.