Jared Bartels was on another level during his final game at Wahpeton High School. The senior went off for a career-high 26 points against Fargo South, including the game-winning free throw with four seconds left in the 76-75 victory on Thursday, Feb. 27.
“He stepped to the line and made the first one (to tie it) and they call a timeout. Every kid from South on the free-throw lane was talking trash to him, but Jared stepped up and drained the next one,” Wahpeton coach Jeff Ralph said. “That’s as good a game as he’s played all year. I hope it’s not a career game. I hope we’ll see more out of him.”
Along with the scoring outburst, Bartels was also doing damage on the glass with nine boards. All on a night when he wasn’t 100 percent.
“He tells me at halftime he doesn’t feel good and then it’s our ball to start the half and of course who does the ball go to right away? It goes to Jared,” Ralph said. “He was really good in both halves of the game. Hats off to him. He’s a senior playing his last game on our home court and he really played well.”
Like usual, South brought their pressure to disrupt Wahpeton’s offense. At one point they built a double-digit lead in the second half, but the Huskies answered.
“It was just a gutty effort out of our kids. We went down 10 at one point in the second half and I just felt good the whole night. I felt like this was a team we could handle,” Ralph said.
Tyler Tollefson and Blake Matejcek joined Bartels in double figures with 15 and 11, respectively. Tollefson buried four triples while Matejcek went to work in the paint.
“(Tollefson) stretched them out early in the game and that was big. He hit some big huge shots for us and a couple were really deep,” Ralph said. “I think we’ve got to have that from Blake every night. Jared’s 26 is fantastic, but we’ve got to have scoring from both of them inside and we haven’t had that post presence for a while. They provided that for us tonight.”
As much as the team would like to get another home game, Ralph was proud of his seniors for protecting their floor one last time.
“They got the opportunity to close out their career in our gym and every one of them stepped up. Kobe was good off the bench, Isaac Loosmore was really good off the bench in the first half and all of our seniors made some plays tonight,” Ralph said. “We really needed that from every one of them. Credit to them for winning their last home game and giving us confidence moving into Saturday.”
Wahpeton (6-15) hits the road to play Fargo North in a win-or-go-home play-in game. Tip-off is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29. In their last meeting, the Spartans claimed a 93-81 victory.
“We played them last time and they could’ve dropped the ball at half court and kicked it and it would’ve went in the basket I think. Give them credit, they really played well,” Ralph said. “If they can hit all those shots again and we guard them better then they’re better and deserve to move on. I feel like we’re going to do a better job defensively and that’ll be the difference in the ball game.”