Titans topple Elks to gain annual title

The Tartan Titans boys basketball forces are back up to their old tricks of playing less than perfect hosts to teams entered into the annual Tartan Boys Basketball Holiday Classic held at Tartan Dec. 27-29.

A 12-point, 69-57 victory over Northwest Suburban Conference power Elk River gave the Titans a three-game sweep and the championship trophy in the tournament.

“We were very fortunate to defeat a couple of class teams in Centennial and Elk River,” veteran Tartan mentor Mark Klingsporn said following the win in the championship game.

“In this game, we really played together as a team in the first half. We may have relaxed a bit in the second half, but we held on to win. That’s the important thing. We found a way to win. This team has played very good defense all year. Those were a couple of very good teams. We were fortunate to post wins over Centennial and Elk River.”

Heading into the New Year, the Titans have posted a record of 8-0.

Leading the Tartan attack against the Elks in the championship game was Kwadzo Ahelegbe with 35 points.

The talented Titan, “K-A” had a total of 93 points in the three-game tournament for an average of 31 per game.

Ahelegbe, along with teammates Bryan Villar and Matt Haas, were named to the All-Tournament team.

In gaining the title, Tartan opened the tournament with a 78-45 victory over Classic Suburban Conference foe Mahtomedi.

They followed the 33-point victory over the Zephyrs with a tough-fought 69-64 win over the second Northwest Suburban Conference foe, Centennial, in which “K-A” dropped 36 points.

Then, in the championship contest, the Titans gained the upper hand early in the first half and never looked back, again led by Ahelegbe’s 35 points.

The Elks, however, never went away. Tartan broke away from a 6-all tie three minutes into the first half with a 13-4 spurt to go up by 23-14, and held on to lead 34-20 at the halfway stage (the final seven points came from “K-A”, six on 3-pointers).

The second half had a different complexion. Tartan had nine turnovers to just three for the Elks. That, along with numerous whistles from the officials as the tempo of the game picked up, saw the Elks edge back into contention.

With 4:02 remaining, Elk River had connected on 12 of 13 free throw attempts and moved to within seven at 48-55.

But down the stretch, the Titans came alive at the line and hit 5-for-8 in the final 1:40 to play. That, along with their tenacious defense, was enough to post the 12-point, 69-67 victory.

Overall the Titans were 15-for-21 (or 71 percent) from the charity stripe.

Elk River ended up shooting 14-for-16 from the line for a free throw shooting percentage of 88.

Leading the scoring in the losing effort for Elk River was Ryan Schlitz with 18. Close on his heels was Tyler Macomber with 17. They were followed by Sam Halverson with 7, John Axen with 6, Jackson Beaudoin with 6 and Jason Brunell with 3.

In addition to the 35 points for Ahelegbe, Tartan got double-digit points from Matt Haas (12) and Bryan Villar (10). Adding points in the Tartan triumph were Justin Jurek (7), Nick Wales (3) and Peter Kopp (2).

The Titans resumed conference boys basketball action Jan. 3 when they hosted Hill-Murray. They continue at Tartan against Simley at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 6 before they travel to St. Thomas Jan. 10 and Nevada for games against Durango and Moapa Valley.

Tartan will return to CSC action Jan. 17 when they travel to Richfield.

They return to Titanville Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. when they host the South St. Paul Packers.

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