Pirates shoot their way into Section 5A title game

The No. 3 Verndale Pirates came up with their second upset in a row Monday as they stunned No. 1 Pine River- Backus 76-60 in Pequot Lakes for a chance at the Section 5A title.

The No. 3 Verndale Pirates came up with their second upset in a row Monday as they stunned No. 1 Pine River- Backus 76-60 in Pequot Lakes for a chance at the Section 5A title.

Jordan Hinkle's Pirates claimed the North Sub-Section 5A title with their victory over the Tigers and earned a shot at South Sub-Section champ Browerville/Eagle Valley at 7 p.m. Friday in Wadena. Friday's winner heads for Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis March 10 for the Class A state tournament.

"Last night we played a great team game," Hinkle said. "I was proud of how we reacted to the adjustments made at halftime. We felt that if we tweaked a few things defensively that we could slow them down, because the first half was extremely fast-paced. Mitchell Blaha and Jordan Brownlow hit big free throws to keep them at bay and I thought Ethan Korfe did a great job defensively. He and Blaha are being asked to guard some of the toughest players we see and they have limited the opponent extremely well these past two games, they will have a tough task on Friday."

The Tigers were able to handle Verndale's field goal shooting but they were overwhelmed by their prowess at the free throw line. The Pirates were 21 of 31 at the foul stripe with Mitchell Blaha leading the way with a 12-for-16 effort. Blaha netted all of his 18 game points in the second half, which saw the Pirates outscoring the Tigers 38-26. Verdale's 76 points were a season-high.

Luke Weniger poured in 17 points for the Pirates while Nathan Sabinash and Jordan Brownlow both netted 11.


Konrad Bueckers was high point man for Pine River-Backus with 22 points. Bueckers was joined in double figures by Hank Raph, Nick Ackerman and Zach Struss who combined for 32 points.

The Pirates will take a 19-9 record into Friday's section championship game. Browerville/Eagle Valley, a 64-52 winner over Verndale in the first game of the season Nov. 24, enters the title game with a 25-2 record after defeating Swanville 75-59 Monday night.

"Browerville plays extremely unselfish, led by Bryce Irsfeld," Hinkle said."They are rolling right now and we will have to play extremely well defensively to limit their quality looks. At this point in the season anything can happen though and I know these guys will play as hard as they can."



Ethan Korfe 4, Mitchell Blaha 18, Luke Weniger 17, Mac Schluttner 9, Nathan Sabinash 11, Kyle Schmitz 3, Jordan Brownlow 11, Andrew Barrett 3. Totals: 17/7 21-31 76


Hank Raph 11, Zach Semmler 4, Nick Ackerman 11, Konrad Bueckers 22, Zach Struss 10, Kiel Struss 2. Totals: 15/6 12-20 60


Verndale 38 38-76

PRB 34 26-60

Fouls: Verndale 20; PRB 20

Verndale 46, Nevis 40

Clutch free throw shooting by Mac Schluttner and Mitchell Blaha in the fading seconds of Saturday afternoon's Section 5A playoff game at Pequot Lakes lifted No. 3 Verndale Pirates over No. 2 Nevis.

Nathan Sabinash came up big for the Pirates with a team-high 15 points.

"He constantly found gaps in the zone and finished patiently around the rim," Verndale head coach Jordan Hinkle said. "The way we distributed the ball was nice to see because guys were giving up shots that were pretty good only for us to get better ones around the rim."

Blaha canned 13 points for Verndale while Schluttner tacked on 10.


Griffin Chase poured in 20 points for the Tigers but Michael Landquist was held to five. The two Nevis players combined for 41 of the Tigers' 53 points in a Feb. 19 victory over the Pirates.

Sabinash also grabbed nine rebounds for the Pirates who outrebounded the Tigers 28-24.



Erthan Korfe 5, Mitchell Blaha 13, Luke Weniger 3, Mac Schluttner 10, Nathan Sabinash 15. Totals: 14/3 9-15 46

NEVIS (40)

Jack DeWulf 2, Zach Henry 3, Griffin Chase 20, Jack Landquist 4, Michael Landquist 5, Tom Wormley 6, 12/5 1-2 40

Verndale 29 17 - 46


Nevis 24 16 - 40

Fouls: Verndale 8, Nevis 17

Verndale 63, Cromwell 49

Mac Schluttner's 27-point scoring performance carried the No. 3 Pirates to victory over No. 6 Cromwell Thursday in the first round of Section 5A cage action.

The Pirates exploded for a 15-3 lead on their home court and went into the half leading 36-20.

"They played us zone and we really were able to slice through it," Verndale head coach Jordan Hinkle said. "We like to shoot the ball outside but only attempted five threes in the first half, so I was proud of the guys the way we attacked them and found multiple high-low looks."

Nathan Sabinash canned 11 points for the Pirates who shot 55 percent from the field.

The Pirates outrebounded the Cardinals 28-17 with Schluttner grabbing seven.




Ethan Korfe 3, Mitchell Blaha 7, Kyle Schmitz 4, Luke Weniger 7, Mac Schluttner 27, Jordan Brownlow 2, Andrew Barrett 2, Nathan Sabinash 11. Totals: 20/4 11-17 63


Marcus Pocernich 3, Alek Striowski 4, Tyler Randall 24, Zion Smith 12, Carter Kappinen 6. Totals: 12/6 7-7 49

Cromwell 20 29 - 49

Verndale 36 27 - 63

Fouls: Cromwell 17; Verndale 9

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