Grand Forks Central hangs on to beat Hamilton, Fargo South 67-62
James Hamilton scores 41 points, but Grand Forks Central hits eight from beyond the arc for a win over the Bruins.
GRAND FORKS – A strong push from Fargo South’s James Hamilton made things tough for the Grand Forks Central, but the Knights were able to string together some clutch shooting to earn their 10th win of the season on Tuesday.
In a 67-62 win over the Bruins, Central outlasted a 41-point performance from Hamilton and matched it with a combined 58 points from Ross Wilber, Jack Simmers, Leo Strandell and Erick Paye. Ross and Cole Wilber each hit three 3-pointers down the stretch that provided the length needed to keep Hamilton at bay.
“We needed to bring a little more help in those situations (with Hamilton) since he’s not really looking to dish the ball,” Central coach Dan Carlson said. “Our low point was that little dry spell we had after we pushed the lead up which got them back into it, but we made some plays down the stretch.”
Five minutes into the second half, just after taking a 10-point lead at 49-39, Central went just under five minutes without hitting a shot and in the process saw South bring the game back to a one-point margin thanks to six straight points from Hamilton.
The next basket Central did hit was a 3-pointer from Simmers that brought momentum back to their side.
“We hit a couple of clutch ones. Jack got a couple of shots inside, Leo got one inside. We talked about getting some paint touches in and it doesn’t always have to be Erick scoring. We just have to get it down there, move it, and free up shots,” said Carlson.
A 3-point shot from Cole Wilber a 2:42 looked like the start of a game-securing run, making the score 64-56, but turnovers in transition and some fouls brought things close again. With 1:30 left Central held a 64-62 lead.
In the end, Ross and Cole Wilber teamed up for a big steal at mid-court and Simmers hit his shots from the line to cement the 67-62 score in place.
This is a Central team that has been put to the test, physically, all year and has seen some vast improvements when it comes to securing these close games from the eyes of coach Carlson.
“They’ve been in a lot of games like this now. They’re not young sophomores that are playing for the first time in varsity-type games. They are getting used to that physical play. Teams like to play us physical and we’ve all gotten better at handling that as a group,” he said.
In the first half, Central took a little time to find its stride but found a groove in the waning minutes.
Fifteen points by Hamilton, including two 3-pointers, pushed the Bruins out to a 17-8 lead to start, but 3-pointers from Ross and Cole Wilber swung the pendulum back the other way. A strong offensive rebound and put back by Paye tied the game for the first time at 20-20 and back-to-back deep shots from the Wilbers gave Central its first comfortable lead at 28-22 with 4:41 left in the half.
“We were just struggling to hit some shots for a while, so we just needed to stick with it and start making our shots,” Ross Wilber said. “Cole hit that big three and Jack made his big free throws to end the game. After that we were fine.”
Central now sits 10-6 in EDC play and are five games back of 15-1 Fargo Davies, but are tied with Red River. Their next matchup with their rivals is Feb. 3.