Broncos escape OT scare from Stephenson

Boys district

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Bark River-Harris’ Hunter Debelak, left, and Ben Schultz celebrate their Class D district overtime win over Stephenson Monday in Harris.

HARRIS — The Bark River-Harris boys’ basketball team got some clutch shooting from Ryan Arndt in overtime, helping the Broncos hold on for a 72-69 basketball victory over Stephenson in a Class D district opener Monday night.

“It feels good to win, but we had to give everything we had to get that outcome,” said BR-H coach Jim VanEnkevort. “Stephenson played really well and foul trouble had to do with it as well.”

The Broncos (13-7), who were 18-for-33 from the free-throw line in regulation, converted all four attempts in the overtime.

“In overtime what really helped us is we sank our free throws and we played defense,” said Arndt. “We just grinded that one out. It’s just survive and advance in March, I guess.”

Ben Schultz hit two free throws with 54 seconds remaining in regulation to put BR-H up four, but Stephenson came right back down the floor and Alex Hanson drilled a 3-pointer to pull the Eagles within one.

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Bark River-Harris’ Ryan Arndt (22) pulls up for a 3-point shot during the second half against Stephenson Monday in Harris.

The Eagles (6-15) stole the ball and had a shot to win as Merlin Thoune was fouled with four seconds left but made one of two free throws to tie the game at 60 and force overtime.

“The players you would expect to step up in those situations were the ones on the bench with foul trouble so we had other players step up,” said Stephenson coach Eric Panske. “People stepped up and played maybe slightly better than people expected them to and it shows you the heart these guys have.”

Stephenson got the first two points of overtime but Matthew Richer answered with a 3-pointer for the Broncos followed by a bucket by Arndt to put them up three.

The Eagles scored the next four points to take a one-point lead but Arndt put the Broncos back up 68-66 with a big 3-pointer with 45 seconds left.

Later in overtime Stephenson’s Ethan Brown got fouled shooting a 3-pointer and made all three shots to bring the Eagles within one with nine seconds left.

Avery Bundgaard | Daily Press Bark River-Harris’ Kadin Mustafa, left, grabs a rebound over Stephenson’s Merlin Thoune (10) during the fourth quarter of a Class D district game Monday in Harris.

Arndt then hit two free throws to help ice it.

“To take a deep breath and you’ve shot a million free throws in your life and to just keep shooting them,” said Arndt on his thought process going to the line. “You’ve made them before and you just have to clear your mind and take a few deep breaths and just let it out and be calm.”

Most of the game saw both teams battle back-and-forth with no team gaining a clear advantage as there were 12 lead changes and 10 ties.

“I’m just extremely proud of my entire team,” said Panske. “They’ve done nothing but work hard and done nothing but improve. I don’t think there’s another team in the U.P. that’s going to take Bark River to the end like that in overtime with three players fouled out. They showed their heart and they dealt with adversary and I couldn’t ask for more.”

BR-H led most of the first half taking a four point lead after one and a 29-26 lead at the half.

Both teams exchanged leads in the third quarter but the Broncos led 47-45 at the end of the quarter off a buzzer-beating layup from Hunter Debelak.

Four Broncos scored in double-figures with Debelak leading the way with 14 followed by Arndt with 13 and Kadin Mustafa and Bryson Groos each with 11.

Joey Starzynski was the high scorer for Stephenson with 21 followed by Brown with 15 and Thoune with 14.

The Broncos move on to face rival North Central at home Wednesday for a Class D semifinal game.

“We’re not looking forward to playing them, but I guess we are also at the same time,” said VanEnkevort. “They’re a tough match-up for us, but we’re just glad to get out of here with a win tonight. I hope we come ready to play on Wednesday.”

The summary:

Stephenson 11 15 19 16 9 — 69

Bark River-Harris 15 14 18 13 12 — 72

Stephenson — Hanson 3, Becerra 5, Starzynski 21, Thoune 14, Monette 5, Brown 15, Streeter 6; FT: 14-19; F: 26; Fouled out: Becerra, Starzynski, Streeter; 3-point field goals: Hanson 1, Becerra 1, Starzynski 2, Thoune 2, Monette 1.

Bark River-Harris — Mustafa 11, Arndt 13, Richer 8, Schultz 6, Groos 11, Debelak 14, Heim 8; FT: 22-37; F: 16; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Arndt 2, Richer 2, Heim 1.