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Boys basketball: Irish knock off Minnetonka and Shakopee

Senior Matt Stephenson has started the season shooting well.

Last year’s run to the section finals seems to have given the Rosemount basketball team the confidence it can go toe-to-toe with anybody this season.

Just 7-19 last regular season, the Irish knocked off East Ridge and Henry Sibley in Section 3AAAA before bowing out to eventual state champion Apple Valley. Last week the team began the 2013-14 season with two straight impressive victories and nearly went 3-0 against three teams – Minnetonka, Shakopee and Woodbury – that were a combined 62-23 last season.

The Irish held on for a 68-64 victory over Minnetonka in their season opener last Tuesday at Irish Gym and secured a solid 64-49 road win at Shakopee last Thursday before a defensive letdown let an 80-68 road game slip away Saturday at Woodbury.

“We played very good team basketball on both ends of the floor in our first two games. We moved the ball very well on offense and communicated very well and played great help defense. Against Woodbury on Saturday we didn’t have the same energy and communication. It was a good learning experience for us and we will get better this week,” Rosemount coach Bryan Schnettler said. “I think we showed ourselves we can play with anyone when we play together, play with energy and communicate as a team.”

While the defense faltered against Woodbury, the offense continued to produce and helped the Irish overcome a 35-31 halftime deficit and tie the game with two minutes left. As a team, the Irish shot 63 percent from two-point range, made 11 three-pointers, were 11 of 12 from the free-throw line and turned the ball over just six times.

Senior Matt Stephenson upped his point total for the third game in a row and scored a team-high 22 points.

“Matt has matured a lot as a basketball player and will be a huge part of our team this season,” Schnettler said.

Senior guard Garrett Goetz added 18 points, including a trio of three-pointers, and Logan Halvorson tacked on 13 points and five boards. Cole Northwick gave the Irish four players in double figures with 12 points, including three three-pointers.

In last Thursday’s win over Shakopee, Northwick drilled four threes and finished with 17 points. Stephenson led the charge with 21 points and Goetz scored 13, handed out five assists and grabbed five rebounds.

Northwick knocked down six shots from long range and was a perfect 7 of 7 from the charity stripe en route to a game-high 27 points in last Tuesday’s opener against Minnetonka.

Stephenson added 15 points and eight rebounds and Goetz had seven points and five assists.

The Irish (2-1) are back in action tonight at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Tip-off is set for 7 o’clock.