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Area Boys Basketball: Pequot's pressure eliminates Gobblers

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Aitkin’s Garrett Westerlund (left) Pequot Lakes' Zach Sjoblad and Aitkin’s DJ Haasken and Hunter Moe battle for the ball in the quarterfinals of the Section 7-2A tournament Tuesday at Pequot Lakes. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video2 / 2

PEQUOT LAKES—Defense turned offense was the magic formula for the Pequot Lakes Patriots Tuesday.

The No. 2 seed of the South Subsection 7-2A bracket forced No. 7 Aitkin into 10 first-half turnovers and opened up a 35-21 halftime lead. The Patriots' defense never let up leading to a 70-41 victory in the opening round of the playoffs.

Pequot scored seven points off of those early turnovers and held the Gobblers to just 35-percent shooting in the opening half.

After Aitkin's Kade Hopperstad opened the game with a 3, Pequot burst out on a 9-0 run and never trailed again. The Patriots rattled off two 10-0 runs in the first half to build a 32-13 edge before the Gobblers finished the half with an 8-3 run for the 35-21 halftime score.

"I think, from a pressure standpoint, we feel like we're deeper than anybody else," said Pequot head coach Rich Spiczka. "That works to our advantage because we're able to cycle guys in and wear people out. Tonight it was more about putting them into a funk as far as thinking about everything, which they did. That was a big piece of what we were after. We didn't want them to just play. We wanted them to have to execute something and dissect something.

"For the most part, our kids play their rear ends off all the time. We were able to make enough shots early to get some separation."

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Pequot Lakes 70, Aitkin 41

  • Key: Pequot forced Aitkin into 10 first-half turnovers and capitalized
  • Overall: PL 17-10, A 7-20
  • Next: Pequot Lakes vs. Barnum in Section 7-2A quarterfinals at University of Minnesota, Duluth 1 p.m. Saturday.

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Pequot shot 41 percent in the first half as 6-foot-3 senior Zach Sjoblad scored seven of his game-high 17 in the first half. Taylor Manley also added seven in the opening half with senior guards Austin Young and Chase Larson each draining two 3s to finish with six in the first.

"They set the tone with their press," Aitkin head coach Kerry Hopperstad said. "They forced us into some turnovers that of course you can't make in a playoff game. We were short on a lot of shots today. We had a lot of decent shots, but we just couldn't afford to miss the open shots that we had in the game.

"I know we didn't have school (Monday) and either did they, but we really could have used that practice. We're young, but they're a good team. They're so deep so they can just keep grinding at you. It's a nice asset for them."

Aitkin's DJ Haasken, who led the Gobblers with 15 points, scored seven in the first to keep Aitkin close. That was until Pequot opened the second half with a 7-0 run to build a 42-21 lead and then it was maintenance time.

"We went through some highs and lows throughout the course of the game, but the consistency stays there so that allows us to work our way through some of those," Spiczka said. "The biggest thing, on Friday, we just got done playing 25-0 Perham. Sometimes it's hard to get back up and you always have that thought in the back of your mind that if things don't go well you don't get another one.

"Part of what our defense does is it lets us get out and get going right away. It also gets us playing on our toes. We're a lot better when we're on our toes instead off our heels. A good start helps as well."

Pequot's defense held Aitkin to 14 of 45 shooting (30 percent) from the field. The Gobblers were just 8-15 from the line and 5-18 from 3-point. Hunter Moe added nine and Zak Peterson scored eight for the Gobblers, who finish the season 7-20.

"I like how we came here and played," Kerry Hopperstad said. "We just have to get better for next year.

"Pequot should go quite a ways, I think. At least a couple more rounds. We knew it was going to be a long shot. We didn't have great success the first two times playing with them. But we came here to play and you never know what happens in the playoffs. That was our goal."

Pequot, which swept the regular-season series with Aitkin by scores of 73-48 and 70-46, got 15 points from Larson and 11 from Young. Pequot's deep bench outscored Aitkin's 20-6 as it advances to the Section 7-2A quarterfinals Saturday in Duluth.

Aitkin 21 20—41

Pequot Lakes 35 35—70


Zak Peterson 8, DJ Haasken 15, Garrett Westerlund 4, Carter Dox 2, Hunter Moe 9, Kade Hopperstad 3. FG 14-46 (30 percent), FT 8-15 (53 percent). 3-point 5-18 (28 percent).


Austin Young 11, Chase Larson 16, Bode Magnuson 2, Daltin Ackerman 2, Dylin Ackerman 6, Jordan Schommer 4, Owen Seidl 2, Zach Sjoblad 17, Tyler Manley 9. FG 25-56 (45 percent), FT 8-14 (57 percent). 3-point 7-18 (39 percent).

For more photos of the matchup between Pequot Lakes and aitkin see the gallery at

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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