Boys basketball: Polars come close before Titans close them out

Leading the Polars with 22 points, junior guard Jake Steckler (1) puts up a shot defended by Tartan senior center Brody Jackson (45). North lost 66-61 at home Feb. 18. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

When the sports teams from North and Tartan high schools clash, it’s a good idea to avoid guessing who the victor might be.

Such was the case Feb. 18, when the powerhouse Titans invaded North High’s Hal Norgard Gymnasiuum for a Classic Suburban Conference boys basketball game.

Going into the game, Tartan had a CSC mark of 9-4 and was 15-7 overall.

The Polars were 3-8 in the conference and 6-15 overall.

On paper it looked like an easy Tartan win, but that wasn’t taking into consideration the schools’ intense rivalry and the fact that the game was on the North campus.

In the end Tartan did win, 66-61, but the slim margin was far from the landslide most people expected.

“If we play like we did tonight, we won’t be around long when the playoffs begin,” stated Tartan head coach Mark Klingsporn, talking about the upcoming Section 4AAAA playoffs which begin Wednesday, Feb. 26.

“We were absolutely terrible from the (free-throw) line. They (North) played us tough on defense.

“They played hungry. They played like they wanted it more than we did. They were hungrier tonight than we were,” Klingsporn said.

North head coach Joe Janquart shook his head and said “I don’t know what it is; there is kind of a ‘mystique’ about them. We were close right to the end.

“It was just a two-possession game. We just couldn’t put the game away. We made some nice moves and our defense fought hard the whole game. One thing — they are a quality team in sectional play — it is nice to know we can play with anyone that is around. It is just hard to figure when we put that much effort into it and came up empty.”

Missing free throws, hitting 3’s

The game was forth and back right from the start. Both teams were shooting three-pointers with abandon. In the first half of play the Polars dropped five from three-point range. The Titans countered with four. 

The score was tied on seven occasions and when they broke for intermission the Titans had a 28-26 lead.

In the first half Tartan went just 8-for-17 (47 percent) from the free-throw line.

The second half began and the Titans went on a 12-6 run and opened up a 42-35 lead.

North continued to foul and Tartan continued missing free throws. But Tartan fought for every advantage and widened its lead to 54-43.

The Titans went to the line on 39 occasions and sank 24, improving to 62 percent. North only went to the free-throw line nine times and sank six for 67 percent 

The Polars called a timeout and when they came back, a couple of threes by first Jake McDonough and then Jake Steckler, were followed by a concerted Polar effort. When Steckler hit another three-pointer, the score was Tartan 62 and North 59 with only 25 seconds remaining.

At that point the Titans closed the door and the four-point, 66-61 final went into the books.

Gaining points for the Polars in the losing effort were Steckler 22, Devonne Dickens 11, Jon Hjelmgren 10, McDonough 7, Layjon Ogisi 5, Joe Messerole 2, Adreon Wadlington 2 and Kyle Mason 2. 

For the Titans, shooting in double figures were Eric Winter 14, Thomas Hanson 11, Jordan Horn 11 and Brody Jackson 11. Adding points to the winning cause were Emanuel Humphrey 8, Keenen Bellaphant 5, Jacob Lyle 3, Kylon Payne 2 and Jermaine Bonward 1.

Next up the teams will play Feb. 26 at the site of the highest seeds in Section 4AAAA.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at

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