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Pirates sail past Mercuries, Cardinals

Verndale's Kyle Schmitz (4) rocketed toward the basket on a breakaway Thursday night as Cromwell's Tyler Juntunen (23) played defense in a North Sub-Section 5A basketball playoff game at Verndale. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

The No. 3 Verndale Pirates used a good defensive effort to produce a well-rounded offensive game Saturday as they bumped off No. 2 McGregor 61-41 in a North Sub-Section 5A tilt at Pequot Lakes.

Mac Schluttner led a balanced scoring effort with 13 points while Luke Weniger and Jordan Brownlow contributed 12 apiece and Nathan Sabinash scored 11. The Pirates shot 43 percent from the field.

"We decided against them that we would continue to do what we do and that is to press and pressure the ball, even though these guys had been averaging over 70 points a game," Verndale head coach Jordan Hinkle said. "I am not sure they had seen that type of defense before for the most part. We really rattled them, turning them over 20 times and allowing only eight total baskets made inside the arc, they could not get by us consistently in the half court."

Hinkle dished out special praise for the defensive efforts of four of his players.

"I thought Kyle Schmitz and Taylor Willis did an excellent job containing one of their top scorers, Carson Passer," Hinkle said. "He ended with 11, but he has scored over 30 points in multiple games, including one game where he hit 11 three pointers The combination of Nathan Sabinash and Andrew Barrett really limited 1,000 point scorer Billy Staska, who finished with only two points."

Cole Gelhar was McGregor's top gunner with 21 points.

The victory lifted the Pirates to 21-6 and sent them into a sub-region championship game at Pequot Lakes with top-seeded Nevis sporting a seven-game winning streak. The Pirates are shooting for their second straight appearance in the Section 5A title game Friday.

McGREGOR (41)

Carson Passer 11, Josh Benjamin 7, Cole Gelhar 21, Billy Staska 2 . Totals: 8/7 4-5 41

VERNDALE (61)

Taylor Willis 6, Kyle Schmitz 2, Luke Weniger 12, Mac Schluttner 13, Jordan Brownlow 12, Nathan Sabinash 11, Andrew Barrett 1, Tyler Willis 4. Totals: 18/6 7-12 61

McGregor 24 19 - 41

Verndale 30 31 - 61

Verndale 86, Cromwell 57

Four Verndale players scored in double figures as the third-seeded Verndale Pirates passed their first test in the North Sub-Section 5A tournament by crushing No. 6 Cromwell Thursday on the Verndale court.

Jordan Brownlow paced the No. 3 Pirates with 17 points while Nathan Sabinash added 16 points, Taylor Willis canned 15 and Kyle Schmitz scored 10.

"We started slow against them, but turned up the pressure and that allowed us some easy buckets in transition," Verndale head coach Jordan Hinkle said. "Our guard play was strong as they struggled to handle our quickness."

Zion Smith led the Cardinals with 13 points while Micah Pocernich netted 13 and Ryan Juntunen scored 10.

CROMWELL (57)

Marcus Pocernich 3, Drew Libbon 7, Micah Pocernich 11, Alek Striowski 8, Samuel Kemper 2, Ryan Juntunen 10, Zion Smith 13, Cameron Cahoon 3. Totals: 11/9 8-15 57

VERNDALE (86)

Taylor Willis 15, Kyle Schmitz 10, Owen Korfe 3, Luke Weniger 4, Mac Schluttner 8, Jordan Brownlow 17, Skylar Goddard 2, Nathan Sabinash 16, Dan Deppa 4, Tyler Willis 7. Totals: 31/4 12-23 86

Cromwell 25 32 - 57

Verndale 40 46 - 86

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