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Boys Basketball: Second-half struggles doom Bombers

Cannon Falls' Alex Bultena (35) shoots over Hayfield's Cole Kruger during the first half of Tuesday's game in Cannon Falls. Bultena finished with eight points in the Bombers' 44-40 loss. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 3
Cannon Falls' Brock Peterson (middle) gets tangled up with a pair of Hayfield defenders during Tuesday's home game. Peterson scored 10 of his game-high 13 points in the first half. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 3
Cannon Falls' Taylor Carlson (25) looks to throw a pass inside during the first half Tuesday against Hayfield. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)3 / 3

CANNON FALLS – Both Cannon Falls and Hayfield fell into half-long struggles on Tuesday. Missed shots, turnovers and an inability to win loose-ball battles were hallmarks for both teams during their respective troubles.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, their issues came in the second half, which allowed the Vikings to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit to pick up the 44-40 road victory.

“(Our second-half struggled) would probably be a similar story that Chris (Pack, Hayfield’s head coach) would tell you in the first half for them,” said Cannon Falls head coach Josh Davisson. “They struggled to get going in the first half, we played pretty good defense and their guys missed some shots.

“In the second half, they turned a couple turnovers into layups in the first two possessions.”

Everything went swimmingly early on for the Bombers as they opened the game on a 10-0 run, with seven of those coming from senior guard Brock Peterson. Hayfield didn’t get a bucket until the 11-minute, 36-second mark of the first half, and the two teams traded buckets until the end of the half.

Up 21-14, Peterson put an exclamation point on a stellar first half by hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a 10-point Cannon Falls advantage.

The Bombers were prepared to add onto that lead, but turned the ball over in their first two second-half possessions. All of a sudden, consecutive fast break layups by the Vikings’ Cameron Rutledge and Drew Streightiff turned a confident Cannon Falls team with a 10-point lead to a reeling unit looking to stop the bleeding.

“We looked to get that ball in the second half and go up 12 or 13, and all of a sudden, you’re only up six and the momentum shifted to Hayfield,” Davisson said. “They came out with more energy in the second half as well.”

Opening the second half on a 14-3 run, the Vikings took the lead for good with 11:38 remaining when Streightiff drilled a 3-pointer to make it 28-27.

“We did a great job defensively in the first half, and to be honest, we were just OK in the second half,” Davisson said.

Trying to climb out of a 34-28 deficit, Cannon Falls tried working the ball low to posts Austin Noble and Zach Stiehl. Noble was able to overcome his first-half foul trouble to finish with seven points and six rebounds, and Stiehl came off the bench and cleaned up around the net, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds.

“I really didn’t think about anything I did being higher up than any of my teammates,” Stiehl said, “I just played the role I was supposed to and helped carry them when I needed to.”

Down by eight, the Bombers got a late surge when Tanner Carlson converted a 3-point play and Noble scored on a put back to make it 40-37 with 2:14 remaining. Peterson hit a 3-pointer with 1:03 remaining to cut the Vikings’ lead to 42-40, and Cannon Falls looked like it would tie the game with 35 seconds left when Hunter Johnson got a steal at midcourt. But Johnson’s fast break layup clanked off the bottom of the rim and was rebounded by Hayfield, which rode out the clock on the way to the victory.

“We should have had some guys crashing the boards on that (layup) rather than sit back and watch for it to be made,” Davisson said.

Peterson led all scorers with 13 points, including three 3-pointers, and Alex Bultena added eight points and three assists in the Bombers’ loss. Cole Kruger was Hayfield’s top performer with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Merrick Ducharme added eight points and eight boards.

Despite the loss, the Bombers were happy with the steps they made from Friday’s 71-64 loss to St. Croix Lutheran. And, Cannon Falls has to adjust to a different lineup with Johnson playing through a knee injury and senior Jordan Lundell out via injury.

“We’re not getting the results, but a lot of people are stepping up,” Stiehl said. “Tanner’s stepping up, Austin’s stepping up. Everyone is stepping up their game. Even I’m surprised with how I’m playing.”

Davisson said, “We went a step in the right direction, but we got things to clean up for sure.”

Cannon Falls (0-2) heads across state lines Monday to take on Prescott.

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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