Boys Basketball: Wingers struggle, but find a way to win
After a fast-and-furious 6-0 start to the year, Red Wing had to admit that it played its worst game of the season Tuesday against Winona.
But, like any good team, the Wingers were able to find a way to win even when they didn’t play at their best, edging the visiting Winhawks 42-39 for a Section 1AAA victory.
“It wasn’t a pretty win. We didn’t play as good as we can,” said junior guard Ty Buck, “but we know we can bounce back.”
Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen added, “We’ve played six really good games, and to come out and lay an egg … I guess I’m a little surprised. But most of the time in a 26-game season, there’ll be a couple games we don’t play very well. I hope this is the game that’s a good wake-up call in that we have to do the little things to be successful.”
With Buck and Ben Miller finding their stroke early, Red Wing jumped out to a 15-7 lead before Winona scored 10 straight points. Phillip Appicelli capped off the run with a 3-pointer that put the Winhawks ahead 17-15 with 7 minutes, 4 seconds left in the first half. But thanks to five straight points from Isaac Toivonen, Red Wing retook the lead, 20-17.
“In the first half, we were swinging the ball and getting good looks,” said Buck, who scored nine of his game-high 13 points in the first half.
Add five points off the bench in the final 3:44 by Travis Toivonen and the Wingers took a 29-24 lead into halftime.
“Our bench has been good for us all year,” Doug Toivonen said. “And in the first half, (Travis) got some good shots inside.”
Then in the second half, the Winhawks’ zone defense started giving the Wingers fits. With Red Wing shooting 3 of 19 from 3-point range, Winona was able to crash inside, taking away any chance of an inside game. In total, Red Wing was only able score 13 points in the second half.
“The problem is if we shoot and hit shots like we have in the first six games, we’re going to extend that zone and we’re going to get a lot of easy looks,” Doug Toivonen said. “We didn’t hit any of our outside shots to make them come out and guard us.”
Fortunate for the Wingers, Winona had its own offensive woes, shooting 36 percent from the field (15 of 42). The Winhawks cut Red Wing’s lead down to 34-32 after a layup by Tyler Schoh with 9:59 left. But a 3-point play from Buck made it a two-possession game once again.
Consecutive layups from Appicelli and Blake Watts put Winona down by just three, 42-39, but neither team would score another point for the final four minutes of the game.
Miller approached a double-double with 10 points and seven rebounds, and Isaac Toivonen had seven points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Winona, which dropped to 0-5, had eight players score with Appicelli dropping 11 points with seven rebounds and three steals. No other Winhawk finished in double digits.
Tuesday’s game ended with a whimper instead of a bang, but the fifth-ranked Wingers walked off their home court with a victory. And, they stay a perfect 6-0 heading into their biggest game of the young season. On Friday, Red Wing heads to third-ranked Austin in a rematch of last season’s Section 1AAA championship.
In that game, Red Wing brought it to overtime, but the Packers ultimately won the section title in a 52-43 victory. Austin rode that momentum all the way to the state title game.
“We’re looking forward to Austin. Everyone is pumped up, I’m pumped up,” Buck said. “We’re ready for this game.”