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A wild region win: Wildfire strong down the stretch, defeat Titans

Mott-Regent senior Tanner Zentner defends Dickinson Trinity senior Noah Sickler as he attempts to dribble into the paint on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Knights of Columbus Center. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)1 / 2
Titans senior Colton Jones puts up a 3-pointer while Wildfire senior Hunter Crist pressures. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)2 / 2

With one minute and five seconds left in a key Region 7 matchup, Dickinson Trinity senior Colton Jones tied the game at 53 with his third 3-pointer of the night.

On the other end of the court, Mott-Regent freshman Caleb Candrian was also lighting it up from behind the arc. With 50 seconds left, he sank his fourth 3-pointer of the night, pushing the Wildfire to a 58-53 win over the Dickinson Trinity boys basketball team on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

"It comes down to doing the little things. Going back to the basics," Titans head coach Gregg Grinsteinner said. "Mott-Regent really played well tonight. We had a hard time adjusting to their half-court trap. They broke us down defensively and that's something that our kids are used to doing and that's what happened to us."

While it didn't seal the deal, a play that occurred late in the fourth quarter seemed to turn the game in Mott-Regents favor.

Down 50-49 with one minute and 48 seconds left, senior Tanner Zentner stepped up to the foul line. He sunk his first, tying the game, but missed the second.

Teammate and fellow senior Hunter Crist snatched the rebound and found Zentner who scored while being fouled. Zentner finished the three-point play, giving the Wildfire a 53-50 lead.

"We call those energy touches," Mott-Regent head coach Nate Zachmann said. "Even if Crist didn't complete that rebound, just getting a tip on the ball and giving yourself a chance, we call those 50-50 balls. He made a good read of going vertical and not fouling and we call them energy touches and that turns into extra possessions."

With seconds remaining, the Titans had a chance to tie the game with what would have been their eighth 3-pointer of the night, but Mott-Regent junior Cody Perkins stole the ball under the net, gaining possession.

After a foul against Titan senior Easton Walby, Zentner made an inbound pass beside the Wildfire net to Hunter Crist who sank the final basket of the night.

Perkins' steal was one of 12 for the Wildfire, whose defense was the difference on the night.

"Defensively, we rotated very well and we communicated and that's what we have to do in any defense," Zachmann said. "The thing right now is we got guys going in the right direction at the right time and they're going there with confidence."

Offensively, Dickinson Trinity narrowly outshot the Wildfire's 45.1 percent shooting with 46.7 percent shooting on the night. Additionally, the Titans outrebounded the Wildfire 32-24, led by senior Jacob Kubas' five boards.

Walby led the way with 18 points, followed by Jones who netted 17, including going 3-of-4 from behind the arc and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.

"You look at the shots I took, it's off of other people getting me open, taking good shots," Jones said. "It's team basketball at its finest. It's what you ask for when you're a kind of scorer like I am that likes to shoot it a lot."

The Wildfire leapt out to a lead in the first quarter. Baskets from Caleb Candrian, Hunter Crist and two 3-pointers from Tanner Zentner built a 15-8 first quarter lead, the greatest advantage of the night.

Triggered by Walby, who put away a back-to-back jumper and 3-pointer, the Titans started the second quarter with an 11-point run, taking a 19-15 lead. The Wildfire quickly tied it up, though and the teams exchanged points until the half, at which the game was tied at 24.

The Titans strung together a 7-2 run to open the second half, but couldn't put another together when they needed it most.

The tight game turned loss only added to Grinsteinner's existing frustration.

"You've got to be able to have fun. You've got to be able to play together as a team and that's where we're struggling right now," he said. "Part of it is me. I'm getting frustrated and the kids are seeing that. I've got to change my attitude about it."

The Titans are now on a three game losing streak after winning their previous five, while Mott-Regent extends their win streak to four games.

"We talked about playing scared and we talked about being confident as team," Jones said. "I think one thing I'd take from being scared as a team is looking at what we do wrong and we got to find fire in it and see what we got to do next and not sugar coat what we do wrong but take something from it and want to get better at it."

Mott-Regent 58, Dickinson Trinity 53

MR 15 9 19 15

DT 8 16 17 12

MR: Hunter Crist 18, Tanner Zentner 14, Caleb Candrian 13, Aaron Roth 7, Cody Perkins 4, Hunter Koepplin 2.

DT: Easton Walby 18, Colton Jones 17, Noah Sickler 12, Aric Knopik 4, Seth Herner 2.

3-pointers: MR 6-19 (Candrian 3-6), DT 7-19 (Walby 4-11). Free throws: MR 6-9, DT 4-7. Total fouls: MR 6, DT 14. Rebounds: MR 24 (Zentner 5), DT 32 (Jacob Kubas 5). Assists: MR 8 (Zentner 3), DT 12 (Sickler, Cole Fitterer 3). Steals: MR 12 (Crist 6), DT 3 (Alec Sickler, Jones, Walby). Blocks: MR 1 (Perkins). Turnovers: MR 6, DT 14. Records: MR 10-7 (Region 7 5-3), DT 9-8 (Region 7 5-3).