Boys Basketball: Wingers make run, but can't complete comeback
Falling behind by double digits to Shakopee, Red Wing had to make a switch on the defensive end.
Unable to contain the Sabers' post players in a man-to-man defense, the Wingers switched to a 1-3-1 zone and made the final nine minutes of Thursday's Missota Conference game a mad dash to the end.
"When we got in the 1-3-1, we finally started clicking as a team," said Red Wing sophomore guard Ty Buck.
The Wingers were able to cut the gap to three, but they were unable to complete the comeback as Shakopee left with a 58-53 victory.
"You can't fault the effort of our kids tonight," said Wingers head coach Doug Toivonen. "We just kind of dug ourselves a hole there in the second half and we had trouble climbing out of it."
Undefeated in the Missota, Shakopee (9-6, 5-0 Missota) has won its last six games.
Despite shooting over 36 percent, Red Wing (8-7, 1-4 Missota) led through the first nine minutes until the Sabers' Evan Hagen hit a 3-pointer for the 15-13 lead. Shakopee never trailed the rest of the way, building up a 30-24 halftime lead.
All night, it was a struggle for the Wingers' defense to contain 6-foot-7 center Tyler Weiss and 6-5 forward John Burlager. The Sabers duo scored 17 and 13 points, respectively. But their presence in the paint was just as effective at the defensive end, forcing Red Wing into long-distance shots.
"They had tall guys, but it was their reach that affected us," said Buck, who led all scorers with 19 points. "You really had to zip it in the lane or pass it real quick. Our guys couldn't really figure it out at the beginning of the game."
Down 36-26 early in the second half, Buck hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit to four before the Sabers went on a 7-0 run.
Needing any sort of pick-me-up, Ryan Boldt came up with an instant boost, swiping the ball at mid court and sprinting to the hoop for a fast break dunk with 9 minutes, 6 seconds left in the game.
"The first half, we kind of lost some energy," Boldt said, "but in the second half, we ramped it up on defense, and defense turns into offense. That helped us out."
After forcing a turnover, Boldt came up clutch again with a 3-pointer, cutting Shakopee's lead to 47-41 and revitalizing a downtrodden Wingers bench.
"Ryan wasn't feeling very well, and we needed something to pick up our team," Toivonen said. "That was just what we needed, a bolt of energy ... no pun intended."
After a putback from Jack Leurquin and a three-point run by Buck, Red Wing was within three points of Shakopee, 49-46. But a quick 3-pointer from Brody Dole put the Sabers up 52-46 and stunted the Wingers' momentum.
With the zone defense making things chaotic at the perimeter for Shakopee, Red Wing continued to make it a two-possession game.
"They kind of stopped moving the ball around once we got into that 1-3-1 zone," said Boldt, who had 11 points and three steals. "That kind of sparked our offense getting turnovers that way."
Trailing 56-50 in the final minute, Luke Bryant hit a 3-pointer from the wing to make it a one-possession game. Then after a missed free throw, the Wingers set up for one more shot. Again from the wing, Bryant put up a contested 3-pointer that was off-target and rebounded by Shakopee. With 4.7 seconds remaining, Steffon Mitchell hit a pair of free throws to clinch the Sabers' victory.
"When you're down by three and you need a 3-pointer, it's hard to get one off," Toivonen said. "Luke got off a three, it was a decent look, but we weren't able to knock it down."
Bryant added 10 points, and Leurquin had six points and two blocks in the Wingers' loss.
"Give our kids some credit for getting to that point and having the ball to have the chance to tie at the end," Toivonen said.
Losing four of its last five games, Red Wing is on the road Tuesday against 10th-ranked (3A) New Prague.