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Whittet propels Cyclones by Mavericks

WALL OF DEFENDERS — Martin County West’s Kale Larson (1) tries to battle through the St. Clair wall of defenders, from left, Noah Seys-Marshall, Samuel Freitag and Carter Bilitz during regular-season Valley Conference basketball action on Friday night in Trimont. (Photo by Greg Abel)

TRIMONT — The St. Clair Cyclones combined a game-opening 15-2 surge with an intermission-bridging 10-0 run to twist past the Martin County West Mavericks during both teams’ regular-season basketball finale on Friday night in Trimont.

Connor Whittet erupted for game-leading totals of 25 points, five assists and four steals to engineer St. Clair’s 70-44 Valley Conference triumph over Martin County West in its last tune-up before the playoffs.

Martin County West (4-22) awaits the outcome of the Section 2A seeding meeting and ensuing pairings, while St. Clair (14-12) awaits its seeding and first-round matchup in the upcoming Section 2AA tournament.

“We knew that he’s a guy who’s quick and strong, and can hurt you inside, so we focused on keeping him from getting the position he wanted in the paint,” St. Clair head coach Seth Altenhofen said in reference to Mavericks’ post player Jacob Wilmes. “We held him to just one (point) in the first half, but once our center went down with an injury in the second half, he did some damage.

“Connor (Whittet) went for 25 (points) and we were pretty balanced after that to pull away for the win.”

Indeed. Coleton Prange, who supplied nine points, distributed an assist to Noah Seys-Marshall for a low-post leaner and later cashed in a Whittet steal-turned-assist to help trigger the Cyclones’ 15-2 offensive outburst from the opening tip.

Whittet displayed his inside-outside skills by first rim-rolling home a baseline leaner for an ‘and-1′ play before capping St. Clair’s double-digit run with one of his two 3-pointers.

Point guard Kale Larson, who finished with 11 points and a team-best three steals, delivered nine of the Mavericks’ 21 first-half points to keep the home team within 22-14 with 5 minutes left before intermission.

Whittet, however, warmed up the Trimont twine by reeling off nine of the Cyclones’ consecutive points to help nearly double the lead to 31-16. The 6-foot-1 senior guard hit a pull-up 15-footer, drilled a trey, banked home a baseline fade off the drive and converted a one-and-one situation to fuel the run.

Hunter Schmidt, who netted nine points, knocked down two free throws and his only 3-pointer with 33 seconds to go to narrow MCW’s gap to 31-21, but freshman Samuel Freitag would answer at the buzzer.

Freitag, who contributed nine points off the St. Clair bench, swooshed the first of his game-leading three 3s from the left wing to beat the horn for a 13-point halftime lead.

Seys-Marshall hit a low-post basket, Hunter Winkler nailed a right-corner 3 off a Whittet kickout pass and Kadon Springer added a 15-foot jumper to extend St. Clair’s lead to 41-21 during the early stages of the second half.

Wilmes proved his mettle by tossing in 11 of his dozen points and grabbed eight of his team-leading 12 rebounds to pace the Mavericks’ 23-point second-half effort.

Carter Bilitz topped all rebounders by pulling down 13 to complement his eight-point performance off of St. Clair’s bench.

St. Clair     34-36–70

MCW          21-23–44

MCW (44)

Wilmes 5-20 2-4 12, Clarke 1-5 2-4 4, Schmidt 3-3 2-3 9, L. Larson 0-1 1-2 1, K. Larson 4-13 3-4 11, Williamson 1-2 1-2 4, J. Olson 0-1 1-2 1, Rathmann 0-1 0-0 0, Roben 0-1 0-0 0, Sharp 0-1 2-2 2, I. Olson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 14-50 14-23 44.

ST. CLAIR (70)

Winkler 2-2 0-1 5, Whittet 10-20 3-3 25, Blount 2-8 0-0 4, Prange 3-5 3-9 9, Seys-Marshall 2-6 2-2 6, Bilitz 2-10 2-2 8, Freitag 3-7 0-0 9, Springer 2-3 0-0 4, E. Ward 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 10-17 70.

3-pointers: St. Clair 8-25 (Freitag 3, Whittet and Bilitz 2 each, Winkler 1); Martin County West 2-8 (Schmidt and Williamson 1 each). Fouled out: Clarke (MCW) and L. Larson (MCW). Rebounds: St. Clair 45 (Bilitz 13); MCW 34 (Wilmes 12). Assists: St. Clair 11 (Whittet 5, Prange 3); MCW 3. Steals: St. Clair 8 (Whittet 4); MCW 5 (K. Larson 3).

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