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Basketball: Tigers win revived Battle of Stevens County (with photos)

Morris/C-A's Jaret Johnson blows by Hancock defender Peyton Rohloff during the Battle of Stevens County Saturday, Jan. 6 at UM-Morris. Johnson led the winning Tigers with 27 points. Brooke Kern / Stevens County Times1 / 10
Hancock's Noah Kannegiesser pulls up for a jumper near the elbow during the first half of action against Morris/C-A Saturday, Jan. 6. He led the Owls with game high 35 points in Hancock's first loss of the season. Brooke Kern / Stevens County Times2 / 10
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Brooke Kern / Stevens County Times10 / 10

The Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta Tigers improved to 9-2 in the series with the only other boys basketball team in Stevens County, the Hancock Owls. The Tigers took a 10-plus lead into halftime and withstood a late comeback by the Owls to win 65-56 on Saturday, Jan. 6 at UM-Morris. The game jump-started the rivalry again after nearly 22 years.

"We knew it'd be a fun game with a great atmosphere," Morris/C-A senior Tate Nelson said. “A little too close at the end though.”

With under roughly 90 seconds left in the game, Hancock’s Noah Kannegiesser hit a three-pointer that tied the game at 56-56. The tie didn’t last long however as Morris/C-A’s Jaret Johnson responded with a three of his own as the Tigers finished the game on a 9-0 run. Johnson had a career high 27 points in the game while Kannegiesser had the game high with 35 points.

“We had them right where we wanted them,” Hancock head coach Cory Bedel said. “Getting the game tied and getting both [fan sections] going, the kids were feeding off it.”

RELATED: Tigers improve to 9-2 in revived rivalry with Hancock, Morris/C-A boys basketball, Hancock boys basketball

Last year Morris/C-A played Yellow Medicine East at UMM and not many fans showed up, Nelson remembered.

“This year was a little different having both teams so close and getting the fans behind us. It was a lot of fun,” Nelson said.

“I knew the atmosphere would be really [energetic] being the towns are so close,” Morris/C-A junior Camden Arndt added.

Arndt is good friends with Kannegiesser and they often work out together, Arndt said.

“Me and Noah are really good friends,” Arndt said. “It was a little weird looking across and seeing that we’re playing against them, but once the game started we’re both just competitors.”

RELATED: Morris/C-A basketball photos, Hancock basketball photos

Having friends on the opposing team didn’t really have its benefits in this game, Nelson said.

“I feel like [Kannegiesser’s] go-to moves didn’t really matter because he made [the shot] either way,” Nelson said.

Morris/C-A had a noticeable size advantage in the game, which is something Hancock struggled with early, Bedel said.

“We struggled at first. The stats had us winning the first half in rebounds, I don’t know if that’s true. We had to play physical with them [on the post] no question,” Bedel said.

Hancock senior Kaleb Koehl, being one of the more physical Owls, often got matched up with Morris/C-A’s 6-foot-5-inch eighth grader Jackson Loge underneath the basket during the game.

“That kid’s pretty good,” Koehl said of Loge. “He surprised me.”

It’s tough to lose, especially after a six-game win streak to start the season, but Bedel made peace with it.

“If we’re going to lose a game, it’s a non-conference game,” Bedel said. “It was tight, but we played a good game. I was proud of our guys, they played hard.”

Both sides agreed that 20-plus years was too long and it was about time that the two teams started playing each other again.

“I think it’s great,” Arndt said of reviving the Battle of Stevens County. “No matter who is on the team you know it’s going to be a great game just because we’re only seven miles away from each other.”

“I was looking forward to playing [Morris/C-A],” Koehl said. “I’ve always wanted to play them in a sport just to see how it went. It’s a lot of fun playing against guys you know and that you’re friends with.”

“It’s fun for the community especially,” Kannegiesser added. “It’s always fun to play against a team so close where you know most of the guys.”

Nelson and Arndt think this game will turn into a similar rivalry that Morris/C-A is already a part of.

“It’s going to turn into the new Minnewaska game,” Nelson said of the Morris/C-A and Hancock rivalry. “That will be fun to just have another rivalry like that.”

“It’s always going to be a fun game with a huge crowd,” Arndt added.

Both Morris/C-A head coach Mark Torgerson and Hancock head coach Cory Bedel plan to keep the rivalry alive every year going forward.

“Torgy (Torgerson) and I talked about it in warm ups and we both said we wanted to keep [this rivalry game] going,” Bedel said. “Saturday was a bigger turnout than I thought… this game will just keep getting bigger and bigger every year.”

Morris/C-A 65, Hancock 56

Hancock (6-1)...............26 30 – 56

Morris/C-A (3-7)..........38 27 – 65

HANCOCK – Scoring: Noah Kannegiesser 35, Connor Reese 9, Bennett Nienhaus 4, Peyton Rohloff 6, Kaleb Koehl 2… 3-point makes: Kannegiesser 4… Rebound leader: Kannegiesser 9, Koehl 7… Assist leader: Daniel Milander 3… Steal leader: Reese 2, Nienhaus 2

MORRIS AREA/CHOKIO-ALBERTA – Scoring: Jaret Johnson 27, Connor Koebernick 13, Camden Arndt 11, Jackson Loge 10, Tate Nelson 2, Kyle Staebler 2… 3-point makes: Koebernick 3, Johnson 2… Rebound leader: Johnson 12, Loge 12… Assist leader: Loge 4, Koebernick 4… Steal leader: Arndt 2, Nelson 2

Brooke Kern

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