AITKIN -- It was a play that could have gone either way, but it helped the Aitkin Gobblers boys' basketball team defeat the Crosby-Ironton Rangers Tuesday.
With 1:47 left and the Gobblers leading 53-52, Aitkin guard Sam Esary dove for a loose ball and, while grabbing the ball, hit the floor sliding. But while he was sliding he called for a timeout. The referee granted the timeout instead of calling traveling and pandemonium ensued.
After a heated exchange between Rangers coach Dave Galovich and the referee a technical foul was called on Galovich.
Instead of just possession of the ball with a one-point lead, Aitkin found itself with a three-point lead as Brian Hills hit both free throws.
That was all the Gobblers needed as they held C-I scoreless the rest of the game and hit 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch.
"For us, this was a big win because we needed a good win against somebody that's good competition," Brian Hills said. "We lost against Braham and Hinckley the last couple of games and they're pretty good teams.
"It was nice to finally win one against a good opponent."
Aitkin went into the fourth quarter up by four points, but the Rangers were on their way back. Ben Baratto controlled the first half of the last quarter as he knocked in nine of his game-high 23 points before fouling out.
With the score 51-45 and Aitkin center Thomas Just sitting on the bench with four fouls, Baratto scored six straight points to give C-I a 52-51 lead.
"What we wanted to do was front him and not let him get it because he's so strong if you're right behind he can create space to get his shot off," Greg Hills said. "We didn't want him to get the ball, and if he did get the ball, we wanted to double team him.
"We did a little better job after Tom fouled out because he was a little tentative out there worrying about the foul."
Just returned and quickly dropped in a putback to give Aitkin its lead before he fouled out.
Just finished with a team-high 20 points, but was hampered by foul trouble for most of the second half. He did manage nine points in the third to build on Aitkin's two-point halftime lead.
With Just on the bench, Brian Hills took over by scoring nine in the first half and 10 in the second. Of his 19 points, 10 were free throws as Aitkin shot 22-of-34 from the line. C-I shot 8-of-14 from the line.
"They decided the game, especially the technical ones," said Brian Hills. "They were the biggest part of the game, I think."
The Rangers held a 17-13 first-quarter lead. Baratto knocked in six points and Tyler Scull and Aaron Johnson both had four to lead C-I. Then, Aitkin held the Rangers to nine points in the second. The Gobblers scored 15 for a 28-26 halftime lead. Hills and Just both had five points in the second quarter.
"When they got ahead in the first quarter, we just kept our cool and just stayed with our offense and let things happen," said Brian Hills.
Since their last meeting Dec. 20, the Rangers have lost eight of 10 games. Aitkin has fared slightly better, wining four of its last eight.
Just attempted just seven shots from the floor in the previous meeting and made three for a season-low six points.
"We wanted to move him around more and that's one thing we didn't do, or we didn't have that in our offense at the time," said Greg Hills. "We moved him out away from the low post and let him cut to the basket a little more.
"We let him get the ball at the high post because he can shoot from out there as well. It's harder to double team or front him when he's up high."
Crosby-Ironton 17 9 17 9 -- 52
Aitkin 13 15 19 14 -- 61
Steve Perpich 4, Tyler Scull 11, Ben Baratto 23, Aaron Johnson 8, Jon Jasman 4, Luke Brady 2. Team totals: FG 21-50 (percent), FT 8-14 (percent). Conference -- 1-3. Overall -- 5-9. Next game: At Detroit Lakes 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Brian Hills 19, Sam Esary 3, Jacob Mehr 9, Thomas Just 20, Trent Pearson 2, John Swanson 5, Roman Haberkorn 3. Team totals: FG 18-45 (percent), FT 22-34 (percent). Conference -- 4-3. Overall -- 7-6. Next game: At Ogilvie 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
3-point baskets -- CI 2 (Scull, Jasman), A 1 (Hills). Rebounds -- CI 18, A 24. Turnovers -- CI 10, A 12. Total fouls -- CI 25, A 16. Fouled out -- CI-Ben Baratto, Aaron Johnson, A-Just. Assists -- CI 14, A 6. Steals -- CI 6, A 2. Blocks -- CI 2, A 3.
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