Tigers prevail in physical slugfest over Indians
The Spirit Lake boys' basketball team was never able to fully recover from a 10-0 run by Spencer to end the first half that totally shifted the momentum into the Tigers' favor. The Indians mount several comeback attempts, but were never able to get closer than four points in the second half of a 71-61 setback after leading 19-17 with three minutes to go in the second quarter of a Lakes Conference contest Saturday, Jan. 2 at the Spencer Fieldhouse.
"It was a real big run," said John Walz, Spirit Lake head boys' basketball coach. "We were playing with them. It was sort of a back and forth game. We were competing with them and then we had lapses on defense that really killed us. We dug too deep of a hole and couldn't get out of it."
The Indians and Tigers both looked sluggish in the early stages, scoring only two points apiece in the first four minutes. Jay Monahan sparked Spencer ahead 5-2 with a three-pointer at the four-minute mark before Weston Bergquist drove into the lane and scored a basket that put SL back on top 8-7. Josh Bubke helped the Tigers regain the lead at 9-8 with a mid-range jumper with 15 seconds left in the first quarter.
The two squads would trade leads six times in the second quarter, with Spirit Lake converting three straight unconventional three-point plays during that stretch. Drew Dau capped off the run by scoring six points in a row to put the Indians ahead 19-17 with 2:57 left in the first half. Alex Hyde, however, sank two consecutive treys in the final two minutes of the half to lift Spencer to a 27-19 halftime edge. The Tigers ended the second quarter on a 10-0 run.
SL cut the Tiger lead down to six points on three occasions and even moved back to within four at one point in the third period, but Spencer seemed to have an answer for each comeback attempt. After the Indians had moved back to within 31-25, Monahan put Spencer ahead 37-25 with a long range bomb at the 3:44 mark. A minute later, Mitch Peschon found Sawyer Harms cutting to the basket for two to cap off a quick 6-0 scoring spurt by SL that closed the gap down to 37-33. Unfortunately, the Tigers answered immediately by rattling in the final two hoops of the third quarter to move back ahead 41-33.
The Indians would stay within single digits until Monahan drilled a three-pointer from NBA range to up the Spencer lead to 53-40 with 5:03 to play. Some resiliency allowed SL to 69-61 after falling behind by 14 points, but Bubke scored the final basket with 13 seconds on the clock to push the final margin to 71-61. Spencer made 11-of-19 free throws and two critical triples in the final quarter.
"They've got a never-give-up attitude," Walz quipped about his squad. "They work very hard and play all the way to the end. We just have to get all the energy going in the right direction. We just need to learn to not take the wind out of our own sails with our own mistakes. We can work very hard and if we even let our guard down for a minute, the other team is scoring. We also have to work very hard for every basket we get. Those are the biggest things that (have) really been hurting us so far."
Both teams jacked up 50 or more shots, as SL finished 20-of-51 from the floor for 39.2 percent and Spencer was 25-of-62 overall for 40.3 percent. The difference was that the Indians made only 19-of-29 free throws and 2-of-12 three-pointers. The Tigers, on the other hand, were a lackluster 15-of-24 from the foul stripe, but they more than made up for it with some clutch outside shooting -- going 6-of-19 from downtown. Spencer also committed just 11 turnovers compared to 20 for SL.
"What really sticks out to me is our defense," said Walz. "Scoring 61 is very good, but giving up 71 is what I have a problem with. We need to learn through game film the angles and positions we need to be at. We also need to rebound better. It seems like we've been outrebounded in every game we've played in. When we need a stop, we give them extra possessions. We got outrebounded 34-24 and we gave up 13 offensive rebounds. When you look at the percentages, they're a pretty similar, but when you look at the attempts, they had 62 and we had 51. Then when you look at the offensive boards, it was 13 extra attempts that they had. Then another thing is turnovers. We need to take care of the ball better. We need to (be) more proud of a possession. We have more unforced turnovers than the defense is forcing. If we're learning, we should see the turnover rate go down and hopefully see the offensive rebounds for the opponent go down. We're a young team, so each and every game we want to make sure that we're becoming better."
Peschon scored 16 points and nailed 7-of-8 free throws. Dau and Paul Brown each had 13 points. Dau grabbed seven rebounds as well. Despite being saddled with foul difficulty for most of the game, Harms had seven points and four rebounds. The Indians' two other post players, Kyle Heidebrink and Taylor Acton, both fouled out.
Bubke had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers. Monahan scored 17 points and nailed 3-of-5 triples. Jordan Oltman tossed in 13 points, followed by Drake Swanson with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Spirit Lake falls to 4-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference action, while Spencer is now 3-3 overall and 2-2 in league play.