Boys Basketball: Kuchinka's return pushes Lake City past Ellsworth
LAKE CITY – Brady Kuchinka was getting impatient with having to sit on the bench.
Suffering a broken fibula during football season, the Tigers’ sophomore guard finally got the go-ahead over the weekend to play in his first game of the year.
“Just this last weekend, we e-mailed the doctor to give us the pass so I could play,” Kuchinka said. “It’s not at 100 percent. I’m not as explosive as I was … yet.”
It didn’t take long for Kuchinka to make an impact in his return as he finished with 21 points in a 69-65 non-conference victory over Ellsworth Friday at Lincoln High School.
“Brady’s been practicing with us for three weeks now. … He played more minutes than I initially thought he would, but he’s the kind of kid who’ll fight through anything,” Lake City head coach Greg Berge said. “He creates for himself and for other people.”
That spark from Kuchinka was needed as the Panthers jumped out to a 27-14 lead with 3 minutes, 47 seconds left in the first half after a 3-pointer from Chrystian Kulow.
It was the hot shooting of Jesse Oliver that helped the Tigers close the gap as he scored eight of his 15 points in the final three minutes of the first half, cutting Ellsworth’s lead to 29-26 at intermission.
“I’ve played with a lot of these guys for six years now, and that chemistry is still there,” Kuchinka said. “And with Jesse, he’s a good open shooter.”
After Kyle Murphy (16 points) led the Panthers’ offense in the first half, Ellsworth leaned on its guards like Kulow, Evan Klawitter and Nick Taranto in the second half. The Panthers led 58-57 with 2:42 remaining after a layup from Murphy.
From that point, Lake City took control by going on a 7-2 run for a 64-60 advantage. Kuchinka clinched the victory by going 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final minute.
“(Lake City) was a good team. They played good team basketball and stepped up when they needed to,” said Ellsworth head coach Corey Enberg. “We didn’t play our game, that’s for sure.
“Every once in a while, you need a loss to put things in perspective. We need to realize that we need to step up in game play and in practices.”
The Tigers’ Reid Lundell led all scorers with 23 points while grabbing six rebounds. Eli Custer came down with nine rebounds for Lake City (4-7).
Kulow added 15 points for Ellsworth (4-3), and Taranto and Klawitter tacked on 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Tigers play host to Dover-Eyota on Jan. 3, while the Panthers return to Middle Border Conference play Jan. 7 at home against Prescott.