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Greg DeVillers / Forum News Service, Published January 24 2014

Wahpeton cruises past Grand Forks Central in boys basketball

GRAND FORKS – The last time Jeff Ralph was in Grand Forks, he saw his boys basketball team see a 17-point lead in the first half evaporate into a 49-48 loss to Grand Forks Red River.

“I didn’t want the kids to think about that,” the Wahpeton High School coach said. “It was in my head. But I really thought we were in control tonight.”

There were no comebacks against the Huskies on Friday. Wahpeton dominated in the first half, building a 43-15 intermission lead en route to a 71-45 win at Grand Forks Central.

Both teams were 5-4 entering the game. But Central wound up suffering its most lopsided setback of the season.

“We were flat,” Central coach Dan Carlson said. “We just didn’t compete tonight. I don’t know what it was. Defensively, we were very poor. They’d get in the lane and shoot and shoot until they made it or went to the free throw line.”

An early 14-0 run gave Wahpeton a 17-2 lead. Another 10-0 run made it 33-9. That spurt was stopped by a dunk by Knights junior Jake Mussman, only to see the Huskies answer with another 10-0 run.

Wahpeton was 15 of 29 from the field in the opening 18 minutes and scored on 19 of its 30 first-half possessions. The Huskies converted 10 first-half Central turnovers into 17 points.

“Those are things we’ve seen at times all year,” Ralph said. “But tonight we sustained it. We haven’t done that before. That’s as good as we’ve played all year.”

Ball control was a big difference between the win against Central and the loss to Red River earlier this month, Ralph said.

“We didn’t turn the ball over a lot (13 turnovers). When we needed a basket, we were able to get it. But the big thing against Red River was we were throwing the ball away.”

The Huskies built their lead to 30 early in the second half. Central hit four 3-point shots in a 19-6 run that got the Knights back within 51-34 with 10:35 remaining. But that was as close as they came to Wahpeton in the second half.

Central actually held a 30-28 scoring advantage in the second half. But, Carlson said, “we were way too far behind (to come back) against a disciplined team like that.”

Blaze Irwin had 22 points and Jake Christensen 21 to pace the Huskies. Irwin was a rebound shy of a double-double.

Mussman finished with 14 points and Jaylon Butler scored nine to lead Central.

Half: W 43, GFC 15

W: Grueneich 5, Zarak 10, Christensen 21, Nelson 6, Irwin 22, Meyer 4, Dassenko 3.

GFC: Mussman 14, Butler 9, Davis 3, Suleiman 2, Wavra 3, Meyer 8, Schumer 6.

DeVillers writes for the Grand Forks Herald