Hibbing Daily Tribune

HIBBING — With an upcoming game against Minnehaha Academy on Saturday, it would be easy for the Hibbing High School boys basketball team to forget about any other game.

That can’t be the case today at the Bluejackets travel to Lindstrom to take on Chisago Lakes in a 7:15 p.m., contest that will have implications for QRF in seeding teams for the 7AAA playoffs.

The Wildcats are 5-15 this season, but that doesn’t mean Hibbing can roll the ball on the court and come away with a victory.

“They’re the typical physical Chisago Lakes team,” Hibbing coach Joel McDonald said. “They have a couple 6-foot-5-inch guys in the post that post up hard. Collectively, that can soften things up on the perimeter because of the attention that they get.

“Their perimeter shooting is a little inconsistent, but they have some guys who can get streaky. They have one solid perimeter shooter. He’s the type we can’t lose, and we know that going into it.”

Defensively, Hibbing will have to move its feet. Being late to a spot could spell trouble.

“Their post players aggressively attack the rim when they have the ball,” McDonald said. “We have to hold our ground. We have to provide some help, but I’m not sure we can necessarily over-commit to help either because we can’t let their perimeter players get into a rhythm.

“They’re a lot better than their record says. They’ve been in a lot of games they ended up not closing out and winning in the end.”

As far as closing out, that doesn’t necessarily mean winning by one or two points.

It could also mean taking a five-point and extending it 15, or taking a 15-point game and making it a 25-point game.

“We’ve been decent at it,” McDonald said. “It’s been a little while. The three games we had last week weren’t close games. It’ll be interesting to see how we respond to that, with the fact that we’re on the road, against a physical opponent, who will come after us.

“They want to get some momentum as they head into the middle of February.”

The last game Hibbing closed out was Orono, which it won by 15. All three games last week were blowouts.

“I don’t think we’ve had a game that’s come down to the wire in a long time,” McDonald said. “You always think about those one- or two-possession games are the ones you have to close out. There’s no question that’s the case.

“It’s also difficult to take anything away from our guys because they have done some good things in this stretch to avoid having that tight game.”

One of those games was the Greenway game. The Raiders were hanging around, but Hibbing pulled away and won by 30.

“You’re under the misconception that closing out games means you win a nail-biter,” McDonald said. “Closing out games can also mean making an eight-game a 15-point game, or a 10-point game a 20-point game.

“When you look at it from that perspective, we’ve done a good job with that.”

The Bluejackets enter the game on a five-game winning streak, and they’ve won 7-of-their-last-9-games, but they haven’t hit the court since Feb. 6.

“It’s been awhile since we played, so hopefully, we’re ready to go,” McDonald said. “We can’t think about Saturday too much and not concentrate on enough on this one, which is first in line.”

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