Tri-County Area prep boys' hoop teams go in all directions recently
It seemed all of the Tri-County Area prep boys' basketball teams were going in all directions the past week.
Forwards and backwards. Sideways and frontways. And every which way it seemed.
Take Osseo-Fairchild (11-8 overall) for example.
The Thunder certainly started off last week in the right direction as they defeated their rivals Fall Creek at FC and swept the season series with the Crickets by a 65-57 score on Tuesday, Jan. 30. Not only that the Thunder did this with several of their players out with injuries. But the play of Drake Swett, Tryggve Korger, Brogan Korger, Joaquin Rodriguez and Jack Steinke, who played almost the entire game, led the Thunder to victory. Steinke finished with a season-best 22 points, both Brogan Korger and Joaquin Rodriguez finished with 12 points each and Swett and Tryggve Korger both scored eight points.
"The kids stepped up when they had to in this whole ballgame," O-F head coach Tim Popple said. "We were shorthanded but they just kept on going and going and played with a lot of energy from start to finish."
O-F shot very well and grabbed the early lead which they held onto. Their injuries didn't change the fact of their speed to the basket and their defense which benefitted from their long wingspans and constantly moving hands that forced many a Cricket turnover.
"It feels great to able to win here and beat them twice," Steinke said. "We've struggled but when we play with energy and shoot well we can play a great game and we did."
FCHS (10-9) had three players in double figures led by Miles Schmidgall's 17 points, 16 from Isaac Steinke and 15 from Tyson Flottmeier. But the Thunder's ability to control FC's guards and keep them quiet throughout the ballgame and, most important, keep them from hitting three-pointers, turned out to be decisive.
Three days later, FC was able to turn themselves in the right direction. They routed Eau Claire Regis (7-12) at home Friday, Feb. 2 by a 78-55 score. Bo Vollrath exploded for 35 points while Isaac Steinke scored 16 and Jack Walden 10. Steinke had a monster game on the boards with 16 rebounds for the double-double and Vollrath had a team-best five assists. Not even 24 hours later the Crickets were to get on a bus to Wisconsin Dells at Just A Game Fieldhouse and blast Melrose-Mindoro, their first meeting against the Mustangs since 1985, by a 74-39 score. The Crickets had very balanced scoring and a number of three-pointers for the first time since the start of the season as guard Mason Youngquist finished with 13 points, as did Walden while Vollrath scored 21 to go with 11 rebounds for the double-double and five assists. Flottmeier scored eight points. Mel-Min was led in scoring by Presley Byom's 10 points.
FC takes on No. 9 ranked Bloomer (18-1) this Thursday, Feb. 9 at Bloomer. The Blackhawks knocked O-F off course in their West Cloverbelt Conference match-up last week Friday, Feb. 2 in Osseo. The Thunder only trailed 37-31 at halftime but Domanyck Schwartzenberger, the WCC's leading scorer, hit back-to-back trifectas which put the Thunder down double digits and sent the 'Hawks on their way to an 80-52 win. Brogan Korger led O-F in scoring with 14 points and Jack Steinke finished with 13 points and Swett had eight points. Schwartzenberger had 21 points and teammate Zeke Strand scored 15 points. But O-F got back on track with an 88-67 non-conference win at Eleva-Strum on Monday, Feb. 5. Swett and Brogan Korger both led O-F scoring with 18 points, Steinke had 15 points, Tryggve Korger scored 13 points.
Eleva-Strum's Carter Gunderson led all scorers in that ballgame with 26 points with Calvin Barneson scoring 16 points and Noah Martinson scored 14 points. But only four players scored for the Cardinals (3-17) against the Thunder. That was a turnabout from Friday, Feb. 3's contest at Augusta which had more balanced scoring for the Cardinals and led them to a 55-47 win. The Cards rallied from a 26-18 deficit in the second half thanks to scoring from Martinson and Barneson along with better rebounding and more opportunistic defense. These two sophomores have stepped up midway through the season and has led to improvement in the Cardinals' recent play. Martinson finished with 18 points and Barneson had eight against the Beavers with Gunderson leading the way again with 22 points.
"We certainly have more options on offense now with their play besides Carter and especially with Jake (Bjerke) out with injury," E-S head coach Paul Janson. "And they also played well as far their defense and rebounding too."
Unfortunately for E-S they were still in stuck in the wrong directions as they lost at home Tuesday, Feb. 6 to Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran 73-39. Immanuel (14-2) led 35-13 at halftime and were led in scoring by L. Thompson with 20 points and C. Rutz with 18 points. Gunderson finished with 18 points and Jovanny Stevens scored nine points for the Cards.
Against Eleva-Strum, AHS was led in scoring by Noah Schroeder's 21 points, eight points for Bryce Buttke and six points each for Kenny Kloss and Beau Harmer.
Augusta (2-18) not only dropped the game to E-S but also a non-conference game Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Owen-Withee (13-7) by a 68-36 score.