3-ball powers men's basketball to season-opening win

3-ball powers men's basketball to season-opening win

INDIANOLA, Iowa - Austin Turner scored 16 points, freshman Ben Rajewski led a 3-point barrage and the Simpson men's basketball team beat Graceland 87-69 in the season-opener Monday.

Rajewski knocked down 4 of 7 from beyond the arc as the Storm (1-0) made 14 3-pointers against Graceland's zone defense. The mark is tied for the second most in school history and helped make a winner out of Brad Bjorkgren in his first game as head coach.

"I'm happy for the whole team," Bjorkgren said. "They'v all been making plays in practice and now they had the opportunity to make some plays in the game."

Rajewski's biggest 3 came early in the second half. With Simpson clinging to a 45-44 lead, Rajewski calmly hit a deep 3 to stop an 8-2 run. Jamie Montgomery added another triple on the next possession and Sam Amsbaugh converted an emphatic and-1 to give Simpson a 54-44 lead.

"I"m proud of how we took their punch early and responded with our own," Bjorkgren said.

Simpson led by 10 late in the first half but saw its lead cut to one twice early in the second. A driving layup by DJ Dafney halted Graceland's 6-0 run to start the second half.

Rajewski finished with 14 points, Turner added seven assists and Dillon Gretzky had 11 points and six rebounds to help the Storm win their first season-opener since 2012.

Jeff Amazan had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Yellowjackets (5-3), who were undone late by a pair of technical fouls on the coaching staff. 

Consecutive offensive fouls called on Amazan triggered the technicals near the 2-minute mark. Leading 74-67 at the time, Simpson turned the first T into five points capped by an acrobatic lay-in by Turner. The next came on the very next possession, which Ryan Skaar turned into two more free throws to all-but ice it.

Leading 32-30 in the first half, Simpson built a 10-point lead on back-to-back 3s by Brook Thompson and Sabonis Smith and a layup by Leif Olson. Ten players saw significant minutes during the game as Simpson's bench accounted for 33 points.

KEY STAT - The Simpson defense forced 22 turnovers which turned into 34 points. The Storm committed just 13 turnovers that led to seven points for Graceland.

IT WAS OVER WHEN ... Graceland's bench picked up its first technical foul. With 2:13 left in the game, Skaar hit both free throws and Turner made a dazzling up-and-under lay-in along the baseline to turn a seven-point lead into an 11-point edge. 

BJORKGREN ACHIEVES RARE FEAT - Bjorkgren becomes the first Simpson head coach to win his debut in 84 years. The last time it happened was in the 1931 season-opener when L.C. Dean led Simpson to a 24-17 win over the Chariton Trojans. That team went on to beat the likes of the Leon Independents and the Warren County All-Stars before losing to William Penn.

UP NEXT - Friday, Nov. 20 at Augsburg, 5 p.m.