HURLEY - Hurley nearly came back to pull off another upset of Washburn, but the West Division leading Castle Guards were too tough in a 58-45 victory Friday.
The Midgets shocked Washburn early in the season by coming out of Washburn with a win. Unfortunately for Hurley, that was a non-conference game. In the Indianhead Conference matchup Friday, Hurley held Washburn to a season-low 58 points, but the Midgets couldn't fully overcome a 16-point first half of their own.
"They've been dropping 70, 80, 90 on teams," Hurley coach Gary Giancola said. "To hold a team like that to 58 and have them on the ropes...
"If we play defense like that with that kind of intensity, that kind of heart, we're going to be fine. I thought our effort was as good as it's been all year. I wondered if this team had the heart to play defense, what it takes to be a championship team. I finally saw that tonight. I'm very pleased with the effort we gave on the defensive end. They battled, they competed and worked their tails off on every possession."
This game was certainly marked on Washburn's calendar.
"Hurley took it to us that first game," Washburn coach Duane Gasperini said. "We got back in it and had a chance at the end, but they outplayed us for 2.5 quarters that night. The kids, I didn't have to say too much to them. They were ready to go. They game out and gave it their best shot. Hurley's a good ballclub. They've got a lot of good players, good shooters."
Neither team could find the basket in the first half. Washburn was 9 of 30 from the field in the first half. Hurley was 3 of 26.
"We just didn't make shots," Gasperini said. "Hurley's physical, so you get bumped a little bit. But you've got to be able to complete the play."
The Castle Guards jumped out to a 32-18 lead quickly in the third quarter. Hurley, though, responded with the game's next 12 points. Jake Tenlen steals led to the final three baskets in the run.
Jake Colassaco scored following a patient offensive set with 1:41 to go to pull within 32-26.
Colassaco then fired a great pass from the wing into James Sukanen, who laid it in easily. Tenlen finished the third one himself on the break to come within 32-30.
Washburn broke Hurley's momentum by getting to the free throw line, getting the rebound on the second miss and getting right back to the line. Hurley then turned it over and went into the fourth quarter down 33-30.
The Midgets turned it over to start the fourth quarter and Washburn's Cody Tomlinson splashed a 3.
Washburn build the lead back up to 38-30, but Hurley fought to bring it back down again.
Sukanen's basket with three minutes left made it 44-40.
Washburn's last run was too much, though, as the Castle Guards scored the next 11 points to lead 55-40 with 1:24 to go.
"We got back to being aggressive again in the fourth quarter," Gasperini said. "In the third quarter, we didn't attack their zone. They got us back on our heels and then we started attacking again. That's how we need to play."
Giancola wishes Hurley had been more patient in the final three minutes with a chance to come all the way back. The Midgets were patient and effective on offense before that in the second half.
"When you're six down, that's when you've really got to be patient, take it inside, get fouled," he said. "That's not when you take a 3."
Sukanen led Hurley with 14 points. Colassaco had 12.
"I thought it was Mark Saari's best game of the year," Giancola said. "He played smart on the offensive end, gave us everything on the defensive end. He got into foul trouble, but he's concentrating on Tomlinson for a lot of the game and Wilkins.
"I thought James really asserted himself in the second half. I thought Jake Tenlen really had a breakout game. He really looked comfortable out there and confident."
Colassaco played a good floor game, but he didn't score as much as usual. Giancola took the positive from that.
"He knows we need more from him on the offensive end, but him not having a good scoring night and us being in position to win this game and push Washburn to the end is very encouraging," he said.
Tomlinson finished with a game-high 21 points for Washburn. Bryce Guski was tough to stop in the first half and scored 11. Robert Wilkins had 10.
Hurley was good at the foul line, 14 of 19. Washburn was 19 of 32; that's 16 attempts above what Hurley usually allows. Washburn attacked the basket in the meticulously called game.
Hurley (11-3, 7-2) goes to Mellen Tuesday.
Washburn faces another rematch Tuesday when Ironwood comes to town for a battle of Indianhead division leaders. Neither team has lost a conference game this season.
"Ironwood's a tough team," Gasperini said. "They've got skilled players at all the positions. They've got (Adam) Mackey. He's a tough player. He makes everybody around him better."
Games like Friday can only help Washburn.
"These are the games we need to play this time of year, especially on the road, bet battle tested a little bit and make the kids really dig down deep and see what we've got," Gasperini said.
Hurley 8 16 30 45
Washburn 13 24 33 58
Hurley - Brad Vaara 3, Jake Tenlen 6, Mitchell Maki 3, Jake Colassaco 12, Jared Wendt 3, James Sukanen 14, Mark Saari 4. FTs: 14-19. Fouls: 23. Fouled out: Saari, Maki. 3-pointers: Vaara 1, Maki 1, Colassaco 1.
Washburn - Robert Wilkins 10, Mac Reykdal 3, Sam Carrier 11, Brett Rozier 2, Cody Tomlinson 21, Bryce Guski 11. FTs: 19-32. Fouls: 18. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Tomlinson 1.