T-Birds get past Greyhounds again

Staff photo by Ari Selvey Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop’s Easton Taylor looks to go up for a shot while defended by New Ulm Cathedral’s Zach Gieseke during a Tomahawk Conference boys basketball game on Tuesday at Cathedral High School.

NEW ULM — Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop pulled off a 12-point comeback Tuesday night to come away with a 53-51 victory over New Ulm Cathedral in a Tomahawk Conference boys basketball game.

GFW defeated Cathedral by a single point in their previous game one week prior, with the Thunderbirds topping the Greyhounds 74-73 on Feb. 13.

GFW head coach Ryan Jacobson said the game had the feel of a playoff game with the defensive effort and intensity both teams brought to the contest.

“They were really tough defensively,” coach Jacobson said. “Man-to-man they get out, they play hard, they’re physical, they’re big inside, they’re well-coached, they switch everything. They take you out of what you want to do. You just have to find a way to make something happen.”

That something was a 12-0 run to tie the game after Cathedral’s Jevan Wilfahrt, who recently became the Greyhounds’ all-time leading scorer, picked up his fourth foul with 8:19 to play in the game. Wilfahrt returned to the game less than two minutes later, but GFW had caught fire and continued to score until Wilfahrt retook the lead with a transition layup. However, Wilfahrt picked up his fifth foul with 5:27 to play, leaving Cathedral without their top scorer and playmaker, giving GFW the room to complete the comeback.

“Jevan got himself in foul trouble, and that definitely hurt,” Cathedral head coach Alan Woitas said. “We’re a different team when he’s off the floor, so that’s a huge disadvantage. But I thought our guys did a nice job of competing. We spent the last six minutes without him, and it was tied when he left and we lost by 2. We’re capable of competing even if he is in foul trouble later on too.”

Another issue for the Greyhounds was free-throw shooting. While Cathedral made it to the line 21 times, they only made eight shots, going 38.1% from the line.

Easton Taylor led the Thunderbirds with 13 points, while Dominic Rose had 10 points. Alex Johnson scored 9 points and Cole Jacobson had 8 points for GFW.

Wilfahrt led the Greyhounds in scoring despite the foul trouble, getting 20 points along with nine rebounds and five assists. Isaac Miller had 9 points and seven rebounds, while Jake Finstad had 8 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Zach Gieseke added 8 points and three rebounds for Cathedral.

The game started out a defensive battle, with neither team finding a rhythm offensively.

“We were pretty sloppy with the basketball,” Woitas said. “We turned the ball over our first four possessions. You can’t win games when you do that this time of year. We have a very short window to fix that, and hopefully we take that to heart, because then we’re capable of beating anybody in the subsection… We competed on the defensive end all night.

“Credit to our kids. Different people people stepped up guarding their best players, they did a nice job. When we compete on the defensive end, we’re capable of winning any game, but we have to execute a little bit better offensively.”

GFW got out to a 5-0 start behind a layup by Johnson and stepback 3 by Taylor, but Cathedral responded with a 8-0 run. The teams battled for several possessions, with the lead changing hands eight more times in the half.

Cathedral eventually came out on top 26-25 at halftime.

Both teams got a little more momentum in the second half, seeing more shots drop as the game went on.

“In basketball and shooting, it’s a game of percentages,” coach Jacobson said. “We knew we didn’t make many in the first half, they didn’t make many in the first half. Both teams are going to find the basket, which they both did in the second half. In a game like this, it’s going to be a slugfest. Every possession matters. You miss one assignment, it’s huge. You just have to make sure you, one possession at a time, win that possession. And that was the message at halftime.

“I thought the guys did a nice job. To [Cathedral’s] defensive credit, they really slowed our ball movement. We made that a focus, ‘Let’s get the basketball moving a little bit.’ When we do that, you get a little more flow, you create some longer closeouts and better shots.”

While both teams improved offensively in the second half, it was Cathedral that got out to the first big lead of the game, with Finstad and Wilfahrt fueling a 9-0 run. Finstad hit a 3-pointer and a transition layup to start the run and Wilfahrt finished it off with a pair of layups to get out to a 46-34 lead.

However, Johnson hit a paint shot and Wilfahrt left the game with his fourth foul shortly afterward, sparking the Thunderbirds’ comeback.

GFW’s Braylan Freitag hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc and Taylor got a steal-and-score before Wilfahrt returned to the game after a Cathedral timeout. Ashton Buboltz got a putback for GFW coming out of the break, followed by a 3-pointer by Taylor to tie the game at 46. Wilfahrt hit a shot in transition to retake the lead but fouled out on GFW’s next possession, with Rose cutting to the basket to tie the score once more.

Taylor hit a baseline jumper to give GFW their first lead since the first half, and the Thunderbirds held that narrow lead until Finstad’s last-second long 3-point attempt missed and GFW came away with the win.

GFW finishes its regular season with a 16-10 overall record and 9-7 in conference and awaits playoff seeding for its next game. Cathedral (13-12, 6-10) travels to Mayer Lutheran on Friday.


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