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Bookstore Basketball: Closing the book

Matt Gamber | Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Call it cliché, but it’s the truth – Carl Andersen did just about everything for the Saltines last night.

The junior guard was named the tournament MVP after scoring a game-best nine points, grabbing several offensive rebounds, taking two charges and adding a few blocks and steals to lead the Saltines to a 21-14 rout of Mean Girls.

“We came so close my freshman year and these other guys’ sophomore year,” Andersen said of a championship game defeat two years ago. “It’s just good to end on a winning note.”

Mean Girls opened the game in a box-and-one defense with senior guard Justin Gillette given the undesirable assignment of shadowing Andersen, who also scored 10 points in Sunday’s semifinals victory. The strategy paid dividends early, as Andersen’s touches were limited on the Saltines’ first few possessions, allowing Mean Girls to build an early 3-1 lead before Saltines senior Steve Joyce scored the first of his five points on a pull-up jumper to cut the lead to one.

“They were playing Carl pretty tight early,” Joyce said. “We were just trying to move the ball around and get everyone else better looks.”

But even with Gillette and the rest of the Mean Girls defense zoning in on Andersen, it was as if everyone in attendance expected him to eventually take over. Needless to say, he didn’t disappoint, finding some space and hitting a mid-range jumper on his first attempt.

“It took us a while to get some movement,” Andersen said. “But when we did, I got some openings and was able to get some shots and find some other people, too.”

After senior forward Chris Lund made a nifty jump-stop in the lane to give the Saltines a 4-3 lead, Andersen picked up a loose ball at the defensive end and beat everyone down the floor, showing off his leaping ability with a coast-to-coast lay-up before hitting another jumper in traffic on the next possession.

“Early on he was just getting his jumper off and that’s tough to guard,” Gillette said. “I don’t think he got too many lay-ups early, but he’s definitely one of the best guys out here.”

Mean Girls senior forward Garret Flynn made a pull-up jumper to break the drought and make it a 6-4 game, but Andersen immediately responded by soaring over three players for a tip-in basket that brought the Saltines’ lead to three. Mean Girls never got closer than that.

By the time the first half was over, the Saltines owned an 11-6 lead, Andersen made five of his seven shots in the period. The Mean Girls’ sharpshooting guard Alex Klupchak was held to just one first-half point and was visibly frustrated as he watched several of his jump shots rim in-and-out.

With the Mean Girls mainly in a 2-3 zone for the second half, Andersen found space under the hoop on multiple occasions, scoring twice on wide-open lay-ups before posting up and banking in a shot with his left hand.

Though Flynn got hot at the right time, scoring four of his six points in the second half, Andersen and Joyce proved to be too much, as Joyce scored three of the Saltines’ final five points, including the game-winner on a runner through traffic in the lane to bury the Mean Girls, who had to pull off multiple upsets to even reach the title game.

“It was a real good run,” said Klupchak, who was named “Mr. Bookstore” following the game. “We were the No. 7 seed, but I don’t want to say we were happy to be here because we really wanted to win. But they played a great game and they deserved it.”

And while it was Andersen who got much of the attention throughout the whole tournament, there’s a certain piece of facial hair that won’t soon be forgotten along the Saltines’ championship run.

Senior Dan Ott scored three points in the game, but he’ll probably be remembered most for the bushy black moustache he sported throughout the Saltines’ run to the title.

“It’s been something I thought I’d keep through the whole tournament. It’s kind of like my finals beard – it’s my playoff moustache,” said Ott, who will sadly be shaving the moustache soon now that the tournament has ended. “It’s just a part of the team – it’s got a lot of sweat in here over the last couple of weeks. We’re just really glad we could pull [the win] off, but a lot of people are going to be missing this.”