Sam Gubbrud, the 6’4” senior guard who will attend Augustana College next year, hit two freethrows in the closing seconds that sealed a 72-69 overtime victory for visiting St. Paul Central over Highland Park in a City Conference boys’ basketball game last Saturday before a capacity crowd.
The game itself was classic, but it was what happened near the end of regulation and overtime that would provide a lifelong lesson in perseverance and redemption.
More on that later.
Senior guard Jamal Galato added 10 points — with steady guard play — to help the Minutemen inch closer to a City Conference title and a rematch in the Twin Cities game this Saturday with three-time Minneapolis City Conference champion North, who defeated Henry 104-82 last Thursday evening led by senior guard Tyler Johnson’s 28 points
Led by the backcourt scoring trio of Mike Corenelius, Amitri Collins and Khari Dennis, Highland Park jumped out to an 8-1 lead before the Minutemen settled down to take a 35-32 halftime lead.
Cornelious, a 6’2” guard with dribbling skills second to none, led the Scots with 22 points. Dennis, a 5’11” senior who had countless steals throughout the contest, added 17. Collins-Westlund, a 5’11” junior who had three three-pointers, chipped in 15.
Gubbrud’s outstanding performance withstanding, the game would never have made it to overtime if not for the play of reserve Re’Twan Balenger. The point guard was definitely the silent hero of the game, displaying the kind of resilience any coach would want in a player.
The 5’11” junior, with Highland Park leading 64-62, was at the freethrow line in the closing seconds of regulation.
Balenger — who had suffered an injury earlier in the game — missed the front end of the one-and-one, followed his shot, retrieved the ball, and was fouled as he drove to the baseline. This time he took full advantage of his second opportunity, calmly nailing both freethrows to tie the game.
In the ensuing possession, Gubbrud was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one with two seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
Balenger finished with nine points, as did 6’3” senior teammate Abdikalak Muse.
The Scots gave the Minutemen all they could handle. In the end, however, the difference was in the play of Balenger and Gubbrud.
They simply never gave up.
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.