Salt Fork grants Stutsman's birthday wish

CATLIN — The sounds of classmates and friends echoed through the Catlin High School gymnasium on Wednesday, serenading the birthday boy in the final minutes of a boys’ basketball tournament game.

Salt Fork’s Max Stutsman turned 18 on Wednesday and celebrated by making all seven first-half shots and registering a team-high double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds) as the third-seeded Storm topped second-seeded Cissna Park 72-58 in a Class 1A regional semifinal.

“All I wanted for my birthday was a win,” Stutsman said.

He made sure it would happen.

Stutsman and Ross Learnard each scored seven first-period points as the Storm raced out to a 17-4 lead.

“I knew if we got a lead, it would help a lot,” Stutsman said. “I had to get it going for us. Our student section gave us a huge advantage.”

Salt Fork’s torrid shooting carried into a second quarter when the team made 9 of 10 field goal attempts.

Cole Taylor made all three of his first-half shots and Noah Darr was 3 for 3 in the second period.

“It’s nice when you’re on your home court,” Storm coach Andrew Johnson said.”You’re comfortable in that setting. We got good shots.”

Cissna Park made sure Salt Fork worked on its free throw shooting, sending the Storm to the line 24 times in the final 5 minutes, 5 seconds.

The team made 16 of the charity tosses to offset a 15-point fourth-quarter blitz by the Timberwolves’ Josh Marquez, who hit three three-pointers in a 30-second span.

“As a coach, you want perfection, but we made enough at the line to get the job done,” Johnson said.

Taylor scored 16 points, Learnard 15 and Darr 10. Taylor grabbed eight rebounds.

Marquez led Cissna Park (15-12) with 17 points.

Tyson Rogers had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Milford 61, Chrisman 51. Top-seeded Milford (18-5) trailed 18-4 after one quarter but rallied to beat the Cardinals despite a game-high 30 points from Chrisman’s Ty Bolen.

Bolen scored 10 points in the opening quarter and 12 in the final period.

“I’ve had teams at DACC that were down 20 and came back to win games,” Milford coach John Spezia said. “It was a matter of staying composed. I told them to relax and keep playing.

“They played last night, and we had fresh legs,” Spezia said.

Jordan Gullquist and Wade Fox hit three-pointers during a 10-2 second-quarter run and the Bearcats had forced a 24-24 tie by halftime. Gullquist’s trey started the comeback.

“Jordan was sick most of January, but I told him his time would come,” Spezia said.

Alex Portwood scored 12 of his team-high 17 points in the final quarter. Jeff Cann had 15 points and Tanner Davenport added 11.

Bolen was the only Chrisman player with more than eight points.

“We had a good game plan, but we couldn’t get it done,” Chrisman coach Greg Gisinger said. “Their size inside hurt us.”

Cann (13 rebounds) and Jake Rogers (12) combined for more rebounds than Chrisman had (20) as a team.

“We came out hot but couldn’t shoot as well the last three quarters,” Gisinger said.

Austin Merritt led Chrisman (19-10) with nine rebounds.

In the regular season, Milford lost a four-point decision to Chrisman.

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