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Boys Basketball: MACCRAY’s surge sparked by Asche

WILLMAR -- MACCRAY's Carter Asche finds himself subjected to that strange benchmark for basketball success reserved only for really good players. Asche is averaging 21 points, 15 rebounds and almost four blocked shots per game. And yet three game...

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(TRIBUNE/Tom Larson) MACCRAY’s Carter Asche, left, drives to the basket and Sauk Centre’s Tanner Schmeising tries to cut him off during a Bremer Bank Holiday Classic game Saturday at Willmar High School. Asche finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds but the Wolverines fell 58-57.

WILLMAR - MACCRAY’s Carter Asche finds himself subjected to that strange benchmark for basketball success reserved only for really good players.

Asche is averaging 21 points, 15 rebounds and almost four blocked shots per game. And yet three games into the season, some observers were wondering what was going wrong with the 6-foot-9 Wolverines senior.

That’s what happens when you are an NCAA Division II signee to Minnesota State, Mankato, and your team misfires badly from the start, losing three straight with two of the defeats coming by an average of 24 points.

“We had high expectations going into the season,” said Asche after scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Wolverines fell just short, 58-57, against Sauk Centre in the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic on Saturday.

“We had a couple bad losses (by 32 points to Montevideo and 16 to Central Minnesota Christian School) and we never should have lost the Lac qui Parle game (a 64-59 loss),” Asche said. “I had a bad game there and let everybody down. But we battled back and we’re making improvements.”

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That was evident in the Bremer tournament. After the 0-3 start, MACCRAY has won four of its last six games. The Class A Wolverines beat Class AA New London-Spicer by 10 on Friday and came back from a 15-point halftime deficit to almost upset the 7-3 Mainstreeters, also a Class AA school, on Saturday.

On Friday against NLS, Asche scored 33 points, pulled down 23 rebounds and blocked seven shots. The week before, at Benson’s Case IH tournament, he went for 21 points and 16 rebounds against Breckenridge, and he followed that up with 26 points and 22 rebounds against Benson.

Young Wolverine players finding their games is the primary reason for MACCRAY’s recovery, and it’s helped free up established players like Asche and 6-2 senior guard Tyler Moffenbier, said head coach Tyler Anderson.

“At the beginning of the year, it was a struggle to score,” Anderson said. “But we’ve had a couple of guys step up for us and we’re passing the ball a little better. At the beginning of the year, the ball kind of got in a couple of guys’ hands and it stuck there. A lot of our guys are inexperienced and young, so this is their first experience at this level. Moffenbier and Asche are the only two with any real experience.”

Moffenbier hit 4-of-8 3-point shots against the Mainstreeters and scored 16 points. In the win over NLS, he hit five 3-pointers and finished with 19 points.

Two sophomores, Jackson Grussing and Brady Madsen, have emerged to take some of the heat off MACCRAY’s standouts.

Grussing scored 21 points and dished out five assists against NLS and Madsen had seven points, three assists and three steals. Grussing scored nine points against Sauk Centre and hit four free throws down the stretch to bolster MACCRAY’s comeback. Madsen had a team-high four assists in the game.

But while the Wolverines are getting a glimpse of their future, Asche is undoubtedly center stage in their present.

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That Sauk Centre head coach Mike Ellens was more than pleased by his team’s defensive effort against Asche on Saturday speaks to his impact on games.

“Shariff (Silas) did a good job on him, and (Tanner) Schmeising didn’t let Asche get anywhere he wanted to go in the first half,” Ellens said. “With Asche, it’s tough to defend that because he’s such a strong shooter. If you can keep him under 20 points, you’ve done your job. I felt our kids did a really good job on him.”

It’s a new twist to MACCRAY’s attack that, in the previous three years, opponents didn’t need to worry about Asche doing much damage inside.

Despite his length, Asche posed mostly a midrange threat. He averaged about 14 points and eight rebounds as a sophomore, and 19 points, nine rebounds and five blocks as a junior.

But Asche became more focused on what he could contribute in the paint after dedicating his offseason to weight work and a heart-to-heart with his coaches.

“Especially rebounding, he’s been a monster on the boards,” Anderson said. “He’s starting to make some shots and he’s starting to score inside, which really hadn’t been his game the first three years of his career. But we’ve talked to him about how important it is for him to get inside and score some points down there.”

Asche’s outside game is still intact. He hit six 3-pointers in the Bremer tournament and he’s shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc. But the points and increased rebound totals suggest Asche is growing more comfortable mixing it up in the paint.

“I’ve been in a groove,” Asche said. “My shot’s been falling and I’m getting to the (free throw) line. Nothing beats scoring points when the clock is stopped. I’ve been getting a lot of rebounds to fall into my hands, so that looks pretty good on the stat sheet. (Playing inside) has helped a lot. It’s helped me get to the line and just the size advantage I have, it’s huge for me getting to the line and to the rim. I have a six to seven inch advantage over everybody guarding me.”

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The Wolverines, 2-2 in the Camden Conference North, have dug a bit of hole, however, when it comes to their goal of winning a league title. CMCS is 5-0 in the CCN and 8-0 overall. Dawson-Boyd is 3-1 in the conference and LQPV is 3-2.

After a Tuesday non-conference game at Milbank, S.D., the Wolverines get to test their new resolve in a Friday game at Dawson-Boyd.

“The last two weeks have been a huge confidence boost for us,” Asche said. “We’ve beat some good teams. Hopefully we can keep improving and get some more wins down the stretch here.”

Sauk Centre 58, MACCRAY 57

MACCRAY (4-5) 23  45 - 57

Sauk Centre (7-3)             38  20 - 58

MACCRAY

21-46 FG; 8-14 FT; 13 fouls … Scoring: Brady Madsen 4, Jackson Grussing 9, Carter Asche 19, Tyler Moffenbier 16, Tyler Plowman 4, Russell Flores 3, Connor Cronen 2 … 3-point shots: Grussing 1, Asche 2, Moffenbier 4 … Rebound leader: Asche 10 … Assist leaders: Madsen 4, Asche 3 … Steal leader: Asche 1

Sauk Centre

22-65 FG; 9-17 FT; 14 fouls … Scoring: Austin Nelson 13, Matthew Moritz 21, Shariff Silas 7, Jay Friedrichs 2, Carter Kranz 7, Cole Neubert 5, Tanner Schmiesing 3 … 3-point shots: Nelson 1, Moritz 2, Silas 1, Kranz 1 … Rebound leaders: Silas 9, Neubert 6, Nelson 6 … Assist leader: Neubert 5 … Steal leader: Nelson 2

 

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