Nordics’ first ‘W’ a thriller

By Keith Shelton

For The Daily News

POWERS – Down five points to North Central with just under 30 seconds remaining in the first overtime, it was crunch time for the North Dickinson Nordics Monday night.

In a clutch performance to remember, the Nordics (1-4) persevered for their first victory of the season, defeating the Jets 70-66 in double overtime in the Skyline Conference contest.

Ken Pekarek hit a big triple to get the Nordics within 62-60 in the first overtime. North Central had possession with under 10 seconds remaining, but with North Dickinson pressuring, the Jets turned the ball over and Logan O’Neil hit a buzzer layup to force double overtime.

“We were trying to foul the kid with the ball,” explained Pekarek. “We didn’t get to foul him, but they ended up fumbling the ball. Logan made a great break on it, got it to the hole and tied it up.”

Pekarek hit a career-high 18 points while O’Neil finished with 15. Matt Schultz scored 17 points as the Nordics shot nearly 60-percent.

“It was intense,” said Pekarek. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had in a basketball game, that’s for sure.”

With the momentum firmly in hand for perhaps the first time in the game, the Nordics took control in the second overtime. Justin Clark, coming off the bench for Cody Berg, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, hit a jumper followed by a 3-point play from O’Neil. Pekarek then hit two free throws and the Nordics led 69-63, before holding on.

Trevor Ekberg hit a 3-pointer to get the Jets within three. The Nordics then missed their next three free throws giving the Jets an opportunity to tie the game. They attempted two shots from beyond the arc that were both off the mark. With three seconds remaining, Clark hit one of two free throws to put the game out of reach.

“I can’t say enough about the way our team persevered,” said Nordics coach Chris Mattson. “We had two starters foul out, Berg on the bench. We stepped up with some other kids. Justin Clark gave us some real good minutes and so did Tim Hruska. They stepped in and did their job.”

The Nordics ultimately controlled the pace of the game and appeared to lull the Jets out of their usual rhythm.

Playing without leading scorer Rob Granquist, who was out with the flu, the Jets still came out of the gate shooting hot. They peppered North Dickinson with a trio of triples in the first quarter and got out to a quick 7-0 lead, getting fast break points. But toward the end of the quarter, the tempo had shifted and the Jets got sloppy. North Central committed seven fouls in the first eight minutes and began committing unforced turnovers that only mounted as the game went on.

“It was unbelievable. Chris (Mattson) and I felt like we were watching an elementary game for a while, there were so many travels and missteps. It was an interesting game,” said Jets coach Adam Mercier. “North Dickinson seemed to get every loose ball that was possible. There were a lot of hustle plays and we were a step slow. That’s what it came down to.”

There were times when the Jets seemed primed to run away with the game.

Shortly after the Nordics took their first lead at 34-33, midway through the third quarter, North Central went on a run. They ended the quarter with a 3-pointer from Tyler Polfus and a dunk by Travis Vincent after a Nordics turnover to lead 40-36.

But the Nordics began the fourth with a Pekarek triple and they were right back in it.

“We worked our tail off and the boys never gave up. A couple times during the game, it looked like we wouldn’t win. There wasn’t any quit,” said Mattson. “Our team needed this. We’ve had some bad losses and haven’t been playing well. It was nice to come on the road and play a very good Jets team. I know they’re down a couple players, but they’re still a very good team and I’m proud of our kids.”

Also contributing to the Jets loss was 16-32 free throw shooting performance.

“We could have iced the game in the fourth quarter with free throws, but we missed some one-and-ones and that comes back to haunt you,” said Mercier. “We did play hard for a young team and sometimes these losses happen. It’s early in the season, we just have to get back to work.”

Vincent scored 17 points before fouling out in the second overtime. Trevor Ekberg had a game-high 21 points.

North Dicksinson also won the jayvee game 48-37.

North Central (4-2) hosts Superior Central Saturday night.

N. Dickinson 15 7 14 15 11 8 – 70

N. Central 18 9 13 11 11 4 – 66

North Dickinson – Hruska 2, Pekarek 18, Christian 1, O’Neil 15, Wagner 3, Berg 7, Clark 6, Gustafson 1, Schultz 17; FT: 9-17; F: 20; Fouled out: Wagner, Berg; 3-point field goals: Pekarek 2, Berg.

North Central – Whitens 3, Polfus 11, Martin 6, J. Granquist 8, Vincent 17, Ekberg 21; FT: 16-32; F: 20; Fouled out: J. Granquist, Vincent; 3-point field goals: Polfus 2, Ekberg 2, Vincent.