Paulson, Staples give Knights a solid foundation down low
The Ashby boys basketball team was going to do everything it could to make sure that Logan Paulson did not beat them on Tuesday night.
The Arrows used a zone defense all game to try to limit touches for the Knights' senior big man deep in the paint. That's nothing new for Paulson. He sees that kind of attention every night.
"That's every team's game plan," Hunter said. "We've been working on our outside guys hitting shots. That sounds simple, but that's what it comes down to, and we've had four, five guys finally hit some threes. We struggled with that early in the year."
West Central Area (5-4) trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half at Ashby (2-6) before the Knights got going in the second half. They hit some outside shots, including a big three from sophomore Jack Van Kempen that extended their lead in an eventual 50-43 win, but Paulson eventually got going too. He finished the night with 18 points and seven rebounds.
"I just trusted my teammates," Paulson said. "Dawson (Staples), my other post, he's good. I just look for him and trust him and my guards to get it in to me. Then I'll kick it back out if I can."
Paulson plays like a traditional post by doing most of his damage in the paint. Right before halftime, he received a pass down low, gathered himself to assess the defense and went to his right hand for a shot off the glass that cut WCA's deficit to 26-20.
"It just kind of came naturally, the footwork, and I just kind of used it," Paulson said. "Coaches keep telling me new moves to do, and I just keep trying to do everything I can."
Hunter credited assistant coaches Jon Nelson and Brian Kjesbo for helping to develop a lot of the moves that Paulson has in his bag of tricks.
He needs to use his smarts and that footwork to beat guys who are bigger than him in the paint. Paulson is listed at just 6-feet, 3-inches tall.
"If he were 6-6, 6-7, he would be a superstar," Hunter said.
What Paulson lacks in height, he tries to make up for in strength and by using his body well to shield off defenders. He is averaging a double-double at 18.8 points and 10.4 rebounds through nine games.
Included in that was a huge game against Pelican Rapids in two overtimes when the Knights went to him on almost every possession down the stretch after the Vikings' big man had fouled out. Paulson posted a rare 30-point, 20-rebound game to help secure an 81-77 win.
"The two overtimes gave me a little extra time to get some extra points and rebounds," Paulson said. "That (game) will be with me for a long time."
Paulson is quick to credit the guards who get him the ball in the post. Senior point guard Brady Sabolik leads that group by averaging 10.4 points and 5.7 assists.
Paulson also credits Staples for helping him find some room in the paint. Staples is having a nice season himself, posting 11 points and 4.1 rebound per game.
It was Staples who grabbed the rebound off a missed Paulson free throw at Ashby when it was still a one-possession game with about a minute left. Staples' put-back attempt missed, but Paulson was there to grab another rebound before putting it up and in to seal the game.
"I think they're a little bit similar because they both have really good footwork," Hunter said. "The only difference is that Logan is probably a little more physical. Dawson is probably a little more athletic. They can both hit that mid-range shot, too. Between the two of them, they have a pretty good arsenal of the mid-range shots, the up and unders and little baby hooks."
With some shooters on the perimeter still finding their way at this level, that post play has given the Knights a good place to start from as they try to move further above the .500 mark.