A pair of massive runs helped Wahpeton come out on top in their annual Border Battle with Breckenridge for the second year in a row. The first gave the Huskies a 15-2 lead to start the night and after the Cowboys came back to make it a one-point game, Wahpeton exploded for a 21-8 run to close out the 62-48 victory on Saturday, Jan. 25.
“I always say I don’t get excited for this game until I wake up on Saturday, but then we are all for it. It’s another game and another step in our season. I’m really happy for those guys that they get to close it off with a win against Breck,” Wahpeton coach Jeff Ralph said. “They want to win bad, we want to win. It’s a good win for us and for our program. It was a fun night for our kids.”
Breckenridge went on an 11-0 run of their own in the second half to make it a 41-40 game. Excluding a free throw, all of the points during the surge came at the rim.
“There’s no doubt, we compete hard. I thought we were getting defensive stops in the second half and that was the key to our success to come back,” Breckenridge coach Arly Ohm said. “You’ve got a one-point game, but you’ve got to give credit to Wahpeton. Their role players especially, really stepped up for them and that’s what good teams do. You’ve got to find a way to win.”
Once the lead was trimmed to one, Wahpeton guard Tyler Tollefson came back on the next possession and swished a cold-blooded 3-pointer from the left wing. Tollefson, who began the season as more of a pure shooter, gave Breck fits with his driving ability. The junior converted a trio of and-ones on the night on his way to a game-high 18 points.
“I love that. That’s the piece that we talked about, these teams aren’t just going to let you stand and shoot,” Ralph said. “You’re going to have to go to the basket and he really attacked the rim hard tonight. He was good off the dribble tonight and that’s the progression for a kid and the next step he’s making.”
Tollefson’s scoring played a pivotal role in the win, but Kobe Thimjon was the real heroic Huskie in his final Wahp-Breck game. With Blake Matejcek kept out of the game due to illness and Jared Bartels on the bench in foul trouble, the frontcourt needed a boost. Thimjon came through for 13 points, pulled down nine rebounds and also helped limit Jonah Christensen to six points in the rivalry game.
“Player of the game tonight I thought. The rebounding and scoring inside was the play we need out of Kobe when he comes in,” Ralph said. “He did a great job on Jonah defensively, he rebounded and when he got it around the bucket he put it in. I just thought his play was really, really huge. That’s something we need to keep seeing. His minutes need to be as productive as they were tonight.”
Thimjon wasn’t the only WHS senior to get some time in the spotlight. Isaac Getz closed out the game with Wahpeton’s final bucket and Sephen Keaveny got some floor time to start the second half.
“The early lead enabled us to get everybody in the game. You have kids like Isaac Getz and Seven who don’t get to play a lot and we got them some quality minutes tonight,” Ralph said. “It’s fun for our program, it’s fun for our community and all that stuff, but it’s about the kids. I think we saw our bench and our fans tonight pretty excited.”
Breckenridge’s Cooper Yaggie was held slightly below his average with 16 points, but his slashes for buckets at the hoop came at multiple crucial points in the game. The biggest was a tough layup through contact to make it a one-point game. Yaggie and Christensen were the only two players who have played in a Border Battle game for BHS.
“We have a lot of new faces who have never experienced a real Breck-Wahp varsity game before. We were a little shell-shocked at the beginning, but that’s part of the maturity piece,” Ohm said. “You’re going to have your ups and your downs, but you’ve got to keep fighting. I thought we were fighting pretty hard. Credit to our kids, they played hard.”
Chris Nieto was also frequently getting to the rack for the Cowboys, joining Yaggie in double figures with 10 points.
“I thought he also did a good job defensively. He’s come a long way and this whole crew has come a long way,” Ohm said. “We’re not going to let one game define us. We get right back to work.”
Next up for Wahpeton (5-6) is a 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28 road bout with Fargo Shanley.
“In the grand scheme of things, their play tonight helped us get better for our conference play. In that respect, it’s really good for us to play them,” Ralph said.
Breckenridge (8-8) takes on Barnesville, Minnesota, at home with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28. They’ll stay home for their next game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31 against Perham, Minnesota.
“We have Barnesville and Perham. Doesn’t get easier,” Ohm said. “Those are games that are a little more important to us because of the QRF.”
The highlight of the night didn’t take place during any of the Border Battle games, but before the boys game. Micah Moxness, a 5 year old battling a post infectious autoimmune disorder, was recognized as an honorary starter for Breck. The young future Cowboy is also a Bison fan and everybody in the Blikre Activity Center put their horns up along with him before he was announced by Ohm.
The money raised through T-shirt sales was donated to Moxness’ family at halftime of the boys game.
“I think he’s well deserving of that for what he’s gone through,” Ohm said. “I really appreciate what the Twin Towns have done. When people are in a time of need, the Twin Towns always step up to the plate.”
Wahpeton Stat Leaders
Tyler Tollefson- 18
Kobe Thimjon- 13
Dez Munezero- 8
Corbin Cornelius- 5
Isaac Loosmore- 6
Ethan Manock- 1
Breckenridge Stat Leaders
Cooper Yaggie- 16
Chris Nieto- 10
Jonah Christensen- 6
Anthony Conzemius- 13
Junior Perez- 6
Tyson Piechowski- 1