BISMARCK – The Salt Fork Storm might want to jot down whatever was said by first-year coach Aaron Hird during halftime of Saturday night's Hayden's Athletic Classic championship game and save it for a later date.
The Storm trailed by 10 points at intermission after watching Bismarck-Henning net 11 of 16 field goal attempts in the first half and looked out of sync at both ends of the floor. A change in defensive strategy and a spirited talk from Hird helped change that.
Salt Fork (12-2) scored the first 13 points of the third quarter to grab a 39-36 lead with 3 minutes, 48 seconds to play and went on to claim the title, defeating the Blue Devils 62-58.
Jon Knoll, who along with teammate Bryn Eakle earned all-tournament honors, scored six of his team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, and the Storm sank 11 of 14 from the charity stripe to hold off a late run by B-H (11-2).
"We didn't really get flustered or anything because we've been down in this tournament a couple of times," Knoll said. "We were playing aggressive D and denying the ball a lot more and getting into the passing lanes. We were pushing the ball, and I think it kind of threw them off their game."
After the hot-shooting first half, the Blue Devils cooled off, hitting 1 of 10 shots from the field in the third quarter.
"We came in (at halftime) and we talked a lot about defense," Hird said. "I think in the first half we thought our offense was going to carry us, but it didn't. We talked a lot about how our defense was going to get it done."
The Blue Devils briefly regained the lead, 40-39, late in the third quarter on a pair of Murad Abbed free throws with 1:12 remaining but trailed the entire fourth quarter.
Salt Fork forced the Blue Devils into 12 turnovers and outrebounded them 22-16.
Sophomore guard Joe Pratt dished out 11 assists and tallied eight points for the Storm, and freshman Joel Learnard came off the bench to pitch in with 15 points and six rebounds.
Gabe Bergman knocked down three first-quarter treys to help the Blue Devils to an early lead and finished with 15 points. Justin Fredericks added 10.
In the third-place game, co-MVP Mitch Elkins scored a game-high 26 points to lead Fisher past Urbana University High 60-42. All-tournament team member Sam Estes added 15 points for the Bunnies.
Chumar Williams, another member of the all-tournament team, had 16 points to lead the Illineks. Uni High played without co-MVP Mike Renner, who was sidelined by the flu.
In the fifth-place game, Ben Gardner scored a team-high 14 points for Georgetown-Ridge Farm in its 49-31 loss to Grant Park. The Buffaloes trailed 16-13 at intermission.
In the seventh-place contest, Randy Crist scored a game-high 28 points to lead Atwood-Hammond to a 57-50 victory against Schlarman. The Hilltoppers, who led 24-20 at half-time, received 12 points from Brian Payton and 10 points from Nick Pelligrini.
In the ninth-place game, Taylor Walsh scored a game-high 23 points for Oakwood in its 57-43 victory against Heritage. The Comets, who led 28-27 at intermission, also received 11 points from Brady Leeman. Cole Judy paced the Hawks with 17 points.
Shiloh, led by Cameron Kibler's 14 points, defeated Schlarman's junior varsity 45-34.