—by Todd Thorson
A couple of clutch free throws with 5.5 seconds left by Ben Clark inched the Norse past the Gilbert Tigers Tuesday night (Dec. 17) in Gilbert. It was a tight contest throughout, with neither team able to take control through four quarters of play. The Norse held a 15-13 lead at the quarter break and pushed it to three at 30-27 as the teams headed to the locker room following the second period. Gilbert was able to out-score the Norse 22-15 in the third quarter to assume a 49-45 lead. The tension then built throughout the final period, with the Norse eventually prevailing by one 65-64.
Nick Ahrens and Adam Shorkey enabled the Norse to get off on the right foot, scoring a combined 16 of the Norsemen’s first 17 points. As the game progressed the feeling soon became apparent that this contest was going to be a tight one until the very end.
With the score tied at 61-61 with 1:20 left, thanks to Tyler Hovick hitting two free throws, the final seven points of the ball game would be scored at the free throw line. The Norse managed to hit four foul shots, all by Ben Clark, and the Tigers made three. But Gilbert also missed two front end one-and-ones that hurt their chances. Clark’s winning charity tosses with 5.5 seconds left gave the Tigers one last chance, but they turned the ball over as time expired.
Ben Clark and Zach Hovick combined to score 29 of the Norsemen’s 35 second half points. Ben finishing the night with 22 points and Zach posting 16. Adam Shorkey came in with 12 points, followed by Nick Ahrens with nine. Alex Urbanek contributed three points. Tyler Hovick had two and Sam Miller added one point. Wes Greder led Gilbert with 19 points. Adam Baker followed with 12, and Dax Hatfield had 11 points.
The Norse shot 21 of 44 from the floor for 48 percent. Gilbert was 23 of 45 for 51 percent. R-S out-rebounded the Tigers 32-25, with Shorkey hauling down nine rebounds, Ahrens grabbed six and Clark took down five.
"I thought our guys did a great jo of keeping their compsure down the stretch, and making big plays in pressure situations," said Coach Darrin Berggren. "It was just a great game to watch and be a part of, as the guys on both sides kept making plays for their team down the stretch."
With the excitement of the contest still fresh in their minds heading into the break, the Norsemen and almost assuredly the Tigers, will be looking forward to meeting again in the rematch scheduled for January 28 in Story City, as this rivalry continues into the new year.
"I couldn’t be more proud of the effort given again tonight, and the way the guys continue to give each night," concluded Berggren. "We have been fortunate to win quite a few close games here early in the season. Winning these games will really pay off and just keep building confidence in our guys as we get in more of these situations later in the season."
The Norsemen’s game with Colfax-Mingo on the road Friday night (Dec. 20) was cancelled due to inclement weather. The R-S boys are now 3-2 overall and 4-1 in the HOIAC. Play resumes after the holidays on Saturday, Jan. 4 at home against Nevada.