Braves overcome slow start to defeat NYM

The Menahga boys basketball team trailed 25-8 early before rallying for a 72-69 Park Region Conference victory.

Wade Berttunen (15) put up a jumper over New York Mills' Isaiah Laudenbach during a Park Region Conference game at Menahga on Monday, Feb. 3. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

Midway through the first half of a Park Region Conference boys basketball game at Menahga on Monday, Feb. 3, it appeared that New York Mills was in control.

New York Mills opened this contest by hitting three 3-pointers and scoring on six drives to the basket in building an early 25-8 lead. The Braves were able to shake off that rough start by responding with a 22-8 run to get back in the game. A 13-0 run to open the second half and a 16-6 run midway through the second half were two more sparks Menahga needed to rally for a 72-69 victory.

Charlie Hodge’s 3-pointer at the 8:56 mark of the first half began Menahga’s comeback. Wade Berttunen and Hodge followed with layups, Brock Berttunen hit a jumper and a 3-pointer, and Hodge followed a 3-pointer with a jumper as Menahga trailed 33-30 with 2:30 to play in the first half. After NYM claimed a 37-30 lead, a 3-pointer by Tristan Aho made it 37-33 at the half.

Back-to-back jumpers by Wade Berttunen and three straight 3-pointers by Hodge gave the Braves a 46-37 advantage. After the Eagles responded with a 14-2 run to take a 51-48 lead, a layup and a 3-pointer by Victor Aho, a 3-pointer by Wade Berttunen, two jumpers by Hodge, and a basket off a rebound by Tristan Aho gave Menahga a 62-55 advantage.

New York Mills rallied to tie the game at 66-66 with 1:38 left, but a jumper by Hodge and a three-point play by Tristan Aho gave the Braves a 71-66 lead. A free throw by Hodge with :09 remaining sealed the win.


“This was a big program win. We've put ourselves in positions to win this season and come up short. I'm so proud of our guys for never giving up, understanding the ebbs and flows of the game. and continuing to grind,” said Menahga head coach Zach Kaiser. “We came out in a zone defense trying to contain shooters and dribble penetration and Mills just destroyed it. Their full court pressure caused us to panic and turn the ball over early. After a timeout, we switched to man and were able to each contain our own guy and be in help position to stop penetration. Mills is so good at creating and recognizing offensive options and we knew they were going to still have them at times, but we limited their options with our defensive rotations and foot movement. Offensively, we just took care of the ball better and cut hard and created penetration and penetration-kick opportunities for ourselves and shot the ball with confidence.”

Hodge’s 26 points and three steals, Wade Berttunen’s 16 points and eight rebounds, and Tristan Aho’s double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds along with six assists led the Braves, who avenged a 75-62 loss to NYM on Dec. 13 to improve to 5-4 in conference play and 8-10 overall. Menahga overcame 29 turnovers by making 10 of 18 3-pointers.

Jonah Johnson (18), Derin Gaudette (14), Breck Hensch (13) and Tate Olson (10) scored in double figures for New York Mills, which fell to 7-3 in the conference and 10-6 overall.

“The best thing to see was the whole team getting excited for each other, hustling for each other and helping each other out. Chemistry is a very underrated asset for a team,” said Kaiser. “I think if we can keep up our defensive pressure, take care of the ball on offense and outwork our opponents, we are going to be successful throughout the rest of our season.”

NEW YORK MILLS: T. Olson 4 2-2 10, Gaudette 5 0-0 14, Johnson 8 0-0 18, Laudenbach 3 0-0 6, Hensch 5 2-4 13, E. Olson 2 0-0 6, Rudolph 0 2-4 2. Totals: 27 for 62 (FG), 6 for 10 (FT).
MENAHGA: Hodge 10 1-2 26, T. Aho 6 2-6 15, Howard 1 0-0 2, W. Berttunen 6 2-3 16, B. Berttunen 1 0-1 2, Tolkkinen 0 1-2 1, V. Aho 3 2-3 10, Leritz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27 for 50 (FG), 8 for 17 (FT).
Halftime: NYM 37, Menahga 33. Three-pointers: Gaudette 4, Johnson 2, Hensch 1, E. Olson 2, Hodge 5, T. Aho 1, W. Berttunen 2, V. Aho 2. Team fouls: NYM 17, Menahga 17. Rebounds: Menahga 35 (T. Aho 11, W. Berttunen 8, Hodge 5, Howard 5, V. Aho 3, Tolkkinen 2, B. Berttunen 1). Assists: Menahga 16 (T. Aho 6, W. Berttunen 4, Hodge 2, Howard 2, B. Berttunen 1, V. Aho 1). Steals: Menahga 9 (Hodge 3, W. Berttunen 2, V. Aho 2, Tolkkinen 2). Turnovers: NYM 17, Menahga 29.

Menahga's Charlie Hodge (right) went for a steal against New York Mills' Cale Rudpolph during a Park Region Conference game on Monday, Feb. 3. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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