Logan Gunderson possessed the basketball, eager to make his 18th birthday something worth remembering.
With his Berthold boys basketball team up just five and Bishop Ryan trying feverishly to cut further into the margin, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound forward shut the door. His two baskets on subsequent trips down the floor pushed the lead to nine and the Bombers hung on for a 50-40 win Thursday in Ryan's gym in the District 12 opener for both teams.
"We've played in big games before," Gunderson said. "We just trust each other and we know our teammates are going to make the right play all the time."
Berthold’s Jaeden Jenson drives the lane against Bishop Ryan’s Mason Kramer in the Bombers’ 50-40 win at Bishop Ryan on Thursday.
For Berthold, it's another big victory in a season thus far full of them. Minus four starters from last year's squad, which finished fourth in the state tournament, the Bombers improved to 9-1 thanks in large part to a perimeter offense that hit timely 3-pointers.
Berthold sank eight treys for the night. Three of those long-range buckets came in a four-minute stretch of the third quarter, when the Bombers used a 13-0 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 34-23 advantage. Senior guard Jaeden Jenson, who finished with a game-high 16 points, was responsible for three of his team's 3s. Gunderson, taking his game outside often, scored a dozen and hit two shots from downtown.
"We're a smaller team," Berthold coach Brock Teets said. "We're guard-oriented, we're aggressive. We do shoot a lot of 3s. Some nights they go in, some nights they don't."
The Lions (5-5), losers of four out of their last five games, once again struggled to find the basket. Ryan scored just six points in the first quarter and seven in the third stanza.
After the game, Lions coach Scott Medalen said the reason for the offensive inefficiency (Ryan hasn't scored more than 56 in any game this season) may stem from players striving for personal accolades.
"We really struggled to score," Ryan coach Scott Medalen said. "I think sometimes late in games, we got guys kinda with their own agenda and more worried about points than maybe execution and taking a better shot within the realm of the shot clock. ... We need to continue to emphasize that they trust each other, that team wins are more important than personal stats."
The Bombers had fewer problems by comparison, but still struggled at times to score, finishing with just five first-quarter points. But six Berthold players scored in the final frame, a sign of experience despite the graduation losses from a season before.
"We played eight, nine deep last year," Gunderson said. "We have guys who have played and been in this system for multiple years. It took us awhile, we played a lot of games this summer and now we're finally starting to gel."
Brody Bosch was the only Lion in double figures, scoring 10 points. Ryan hosts Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky on Monday.
Berthold is at Surrey on Tuesday.