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Late run seals Braves' victory

Menahga's Ben Skoog (13) and Park Rapids' Taylor Kimball (12) reached for a rebound during Thursday night's game at the Area High School gym. (Vance Carlson / Enterprise)1 / 2
Menahga's Tom Gruchow (23) drove in for a layup Thursday night. (Vance Carlson / Enterprise)2 / 2

A 25-8 run to end the first half and a 26-8 run to end the game led the Menahga boys basketball team to an 83-58 victory at Park Rapids Thursday night.

The host Panthers jumped out to a quick 13-6 lead behind a layup by Taylor Kimball, a jumper by Paul Dirks, a layup by Christian Ridlon, a jumper by Max Brown, and layups by Kimball and Roth Mattson. Derek Pihlaja and Kasey Tyge hit 3-pointers for Menahga during the first 4:20 of the game.

Two jumpers by Marlin Aho, three layups by Tom Gruchow and a jumper by Tyge helped the Braves take a 19-17 lead before a jumper by Kyle Goplerud and a layup by Ridlon gave the Panthers a 21-20 lead at the 8:55 mark.

Menahga then closed the half with a 25-8 run to carry a 45-29 advantage into the break. A layup by Gruchow was followed by a 3-pointer and a layup off a steal by Pihlaja. Pihlaja hit another 3-pointer and two free throws, Tyge hit a jumper and Gruchow scored inside as the Braves built a 37-24 cushion with 3:40 to play.

Dirks hit a 3-pointer for the Panthers, but a layup by Gruchow and a jumper by Tyge made it 41-27. Dirks hit a jumper at the 1:18 mark before Menahga stalled and ended the half with a four-point play when Pihlaja was fouled on a successful 3-pointer.

Kimball sparked a comeback by the Panthers in the second half by hitting four 3-pointers. Goplerud and Mattson also had field goals as Park Rapids trailed 51-45 with 12:16 remaining.

A layup off a steal by Pihlaja, a layup by Markus Tolkkinen and a basket off a rebound by Tyge gave Menahga a 61-50 edge. Dirks had a pair of layups for the Panthers during that stretch and hit a jumper to make it 61-52 with 7:44 remaining.

The Braves put together a 10-0 run to reclaim control. Tolkkinen's jumper, Pihlaja's three-point play on a layup, and two free throws by Gruchow gave Menahga a 71-52 edge with 5:32 to play.

After a layup by Chris Goplerud, two inside baskets by Gruchow and layups by Aho and Sean Dormanen pushed the Braves' lead to 82-52 with 1:58 left. Brandon Gartner and Tyler Ridlon scored inside for the Panthers to end the scoring.

Pihlaja led the Braves with 24 points, six steals and six assists. Gruchow added 23 points and 11 rebounds while Tyge had 12 points and eight assists. Aho also hit double figures with 11 points while adding seven rebounds and six steals. Tolkkinen had five assists as the Braves improved to 3-1 on the season.

Kimball scored 16 points and Dirks finished with 15 points to lead the Panthers, who fell to 0-4 on the year. Christian Ridlon had nine rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots.

Braves defeat Huskies

Aho's triple-double led Menahga to a 67-38 Park Region Conference win at Pillager Friday night.

Aho had 16 rebounds, 13 steals and 12 points while Gruchow added 19 points and 16 rebounds as the Braves improved to 1-1 in the conference.

Pihlaja led the Braves with 20 points while Tyge had 9 points, seven assists and seven steals.

Pillager fell to 0-2 in the conference and 0-4 overall.