Ballard’s career-high lifts Gladstone past Kingsford
KINGSFORD — Senior guard Noah Ballard erupted for a career-high 31 points to help Gladstone run past Kingsford 71-66 in a fast-paced Great Northern Conference boys basketball game Thursday evening.
The Flivvers, paced by Cole Bracket’s 20 points, led by five entering the final quarter but struggled to keep pace offensively with the Braves down the stretch. Gladstone rattled off the first seven points of the fourth, grabbing a 56-54 lead after a triple by Ian Schwalbach.
Brody Kopp put in a lay-up to even the score at 56-56, but another Gladstone trey, this time by Caden Alworden, gave the Braves a lead they would never relinquish. The Flivvers missed often down low in the final quarter and were unable to cash in on second and third chance opportunities.
“It’s hard to manipulate how fast Gladstone is in its transition offense,” Kingsford head coach Dan Olkkonen said. “Noah Ballard … he is fast and he makes every single lay-up. We just had a difficult time finding him at times.”
Ballard missed just three times from the field, two of those from beyond the arc. The majority of his buckets were fast-break to the basket in transition.
“We tried to get after the offensive rebounds, and that’s great when you get them and put them back in. But if you don’t get them and have four guys on the board, Gladstone is already 100 miles per hour down the court,” Olkkonen said. “That was the tough part, and we’ll learn from it.”
Including Bracket, the Flivvers (2-5) had four players reach double figures. Nick Nora and Andrew Paupore each scored 11, while Hunter Bilgreen added 10.
“We had a lot of good play out there,” Olkkonen said. “We were able to score. Gladstone works hard, and they are a physically strong team. For us, every game has been close like this. I know we’re young, but we have to try to get over that hump of inexperience and figure out how to win games down the stretch.”
Rane Castor joined Ballard in double figures with 12 points. Gladstone (3-4) played catch-up a couple of times in the game, as the Braves also recovered from a slow start with a 16-1 push in the second quarter to grab a six-point lead at the break.
“It was a fun game, fast-paced with a lot of action, just good energy on both ends,” Gladstone head coach Dane Quigley said. “I told my guys the energy would be the key to this game. We needed to match whatever they bring out there, and I think our kids did a good job of matching the intensity right from the get go.”
Ballard scored 18 of his 31 in the first half and broke 30 with a pair of free throws in the game’s final 30 seconds.
“He did an excellent job of leaking out and getting ahead of the defense,” Quigley said. “He had some nice run-outs to get us going in the beginning. He did a nice job of slashing through the defense, had some real nice drives to the basket, finishing. He’s always been a scorer, scores in bunches. He had a real good game tonight and can really light it up when he gets going.”
The victory was Gladstone’s first on the road this season.
“We played with a lot of heart tonight,” Quigley said. “It was a great bounce-back after losing at Westwood. They did an excellent job and this was much needed.”
Nathan Bousley poured in 21 points to lead Kingsford’s jayvee squad to a 61-59 win. Cole Myllyla had 21 points and Ben Trevillian added 15 in the Flivvers’ 54-33 victory in the freshman contest.
Kingsford plays at Iron Mountain Tuesday, while Gladstone visits Gwinn.
Gladstone 16 20 13 22 — 71
Kingsford 21 9 24 12 — 66
Gladstone — Alworden 6, St. John 7, Schwalbach 5, C. Ballard 2, N. Ballard 31, Hughes 6, Castor 12, Hagebusch 2. FT: 10-18. 3-pt FGs: Alworden, Castor. F: 20. Fouled out: None.
Kingsford — Menguzo 2, Nora 11, Boone 4, Kopp 8, Bracket 20, Paupore 11, Bilgreen 10. FT: 13-19. 3-pt FGs: Paupore 3. F: 17. Fouled out: None.