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Published January 15 2011

Boys basketball: Spuds stay undefeated

Matt Watnemo only had two points all night but he found a way to make them matter.

The Moorhead senior forward hit two free throws with 5.7 seconds left, putting the game out of reach to help the Spuds pick up a 60-55 victory over Grand Rapids in Minnesota boys basketball on Friday at Moorhead High School.

“When I was on the line,” Watnemo said, “I said a little prayer to myself. I also told myself to bend my knees and make the shot, but I really just prayed.”

All of it worked en route to helping the Spuds (8-0) continue their perfect start to the season.

Moorhead watched a

10-point halftime lead disappear with Grand Rapids (7-4) capitalizing on making 3-pointers and taking advantage of Moorhead’s miscues.

There was about a four-minute stretch in the second half where the Spuds couldn’t make a shot, making it a bit easier for the Thunderhawks to get back in the game.

Austin Pohlen did his part in helping Grand Rapids cut into the lead.

Pohlen was everywhere. If Moorhead tried to make an inbounds pass, he was there. If Moorhead tried to get the ball near center court, he was there too.

He had three steals and scored on every single one of them.

But when he wasn’t stealing, he was shooting.

A lot.

When Aaron Lien scored giving Moorhead a 53-51 lead, Pohlen responded, hitting a pull-up 3-pointer for a 54-53 lead.

“When a team has a good player like that,” said Moorhead coach Corey Zimmerman. “You know those guys are going to take and, at times, make those shots.”

Pohlen scored 21 points in the second half and finished with a game-high 23.

That’s probably what Grand Rapids’ coach Dan Elhard was thinking whenever Lien got the ball.

Because the outside shot wasn’t falling for Moorhead, it was a pretty simple plan.

Step 1: Create screens. Step 2: Find Lien. Step 3: See Lien drive to the net and get fouled.

Simple? Yes.

Effective? Yes.

Frustrating for Elhard? Most definitely.

Elhard argued with the referees about Lien traveling. Either way, the basketballs were good enough to send Moorhead to another win.

“What we’ve learned to start this year is composure and how important it is,” said Lien, who led Moorhead with 19 points. “We’ve noticed some teams fall apart a little bit and start to yell at each other and get mad and frustrated. That’s one thing we’ve improved on by keeping our composure.”

Moorhead will see how strong its composure is because it faces Fargo North at 2 p.m. today at Valley News Live/Scheels Shootout at the Fargodome.

Zimmerman, who is in his second year, said he expects the game against North to be physical.

“People down in the Cities might think they don’t play basketball on that side of the river,” Zimmerman said. “But they do, and there are a lot of good teams. North is one of them.”

Half: M, 30, GR 20

GR, Sutherland 17, Pohlen 23, Illikainen 3, Bender 4, Anderson 8.

M, Fernholz 14, Ellingson 7, Lien 19, Widner 5, Hand 11, Watnemo 2, Anderson 1, Bosche 1.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548