Boys Basketball: Cougars blow past Dover-EyotaZUMBROTA - The result was decided in nearly the first minute Monday between Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Dover-Eyota.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
ZUMBROTA - The result was decided in nearly the first minute Monday between Zumbrota-Mazeppa and Dover-Eyota.
Lucas Ziemba put the Cougars ahead 4-0 in the first 90 seconds of play and they never trailed again, the smallest lead of the night at 4-2. Z-M defeated the Eagles 57-23.
“I don’t know what it was tonight,” Z-M head coach Fred Liffrig said, “I told them, ‘Defense and rebounding is going to win you a lot of games and that’s where we’re at.’”
Senior Kevin Niebuhr led the Cougars (2-2) with 15 points and six rebounds. He hit his first 3-pointer but did most of his damage inside the lane.
“I just tried to keep going in there,” Niebuhr said of attacking the Eagles’ interior defense.
Senior Nathaniel Rauen finished with 14 points, three assists, four rebounds and three steals for Z-M and Ziemba had 10 points, two assists, two rebounds, three steals and a block.
The Cougars’ full-court defense had Dover-Eyota off-balance from the outset, as they established an 11-2 lead with 12 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the first half.
Z-M’s lead continued to balloon throughout the half as Ziemba, Rauen and Niebuhr overpowered the Eagles on both ends of the court. The Cougars went on a 15-2 run in the final 5:29 of the opening half and led 34-12 at halftime.
Not one player from Dover-Eyota had more than one basket in the first half as Z-M’s zone defense took away any free looks for the Eagles.
“Effort is all we can control,” Liffrig said of his team’s defense. “They’re starting to get a little more comfortable.”
Last week against La Crescent, the Cougars took a big lead into halftime but allowed the Lancers back into the game, only winning by four points. Liffrig said he was nervous of another such performance but Z-M put that to rest quickly with an 11-2 run in the first five minutes of the second half.
“We didn’t let up,” Liffrig said. “Instead of stepping on the break, we stepped on the gas.”
The lead extended to 56-18 with 8:37 left in the game and running time took over as the Cougars’ starters rested on the bench. Dover-Eyota made just four field goals in the second half.
Despite not having a starter taller than 6-foot-2, the Cougars dominated not only on defense but on the offensive glass. Z-M had 16 offensive rebounds in the victory.
“We’re just trying to get after it on the boards,” Liffrig said. “We’re not overly tall but we’ve got some length.”
The Cougars’ length led to 11 steals along with numerous deflections and altered shots.
“We played a lot better defense,” Niebuhr said. “We’re working as hard as we can.”
Z-M will attempt to win its third game in a row Tuesday on the road against Goodhue. Then, the Cougars will play at Pine Island Thursday.