Boys Basketball: Wingers pick up the pace in home victory
For 18 minutes, Sonju Gymnasium appeared as though it had gone back in time, to the land of basketballs with laces and peach baskets hanging from wooden boards. After a first half that featured a combined 36 points, Red Wing was able to open up the offense to a more modern-day standard to pick up a 53-38 Missota Conference victory over Northfield.
“It was tough to get into a flow,” said Red Wing head coach Doug Toivonen. “I thought we had some good looks, but our threes weren’t going. They did a good job defensively, and they played a bunch of different things. We definitely struggled in the first half, but it was good that we knocked some shots down in the second half and extended our lead.”
The first half was a struggle for both teams as shots bounced out, and offensive rebounds were an endangered species. It took nearly two-and-a-half minutes for either team to score, and the game was knotted 10-10 until Ben Miller hit two free throws with 5 minutes, 49 seconds to go in the half.
The Wingers were able to add nine more points before the break while holding the Raiders to less than a point per minute and a 21-15 lead.
“I thought we played extremely well on defense,” Miller said. “Tuesday, against Holy Angels, I thought we played our best defensive game. But tonight, we really stepped it up, holding them to one shot and then rebounding the basketball.”
Northfield did get a bit of a jump on the Wingers after halftime, scoring six-straight points to tie the game with 15:30 remaining.
But Miller, Travis Toivonen and Jon Sevlie punched the gas pedal, scoring 10 points in a little more than two minutes to give Red Wing some breathing room, and forcing Northfield to come out of its defensive game minute by minute. And the opening of the zone created some lanes for the Wingers to attack, something that was not part of the early going for Red Wing.
“I thought that we would be able to hit some shots. We’ve been working against some 1-3-1 stuff, and obviously it’s never the same in practice as you see in the game,” Toivonen said. “We had some good looks that didn’t go, then we thought our kids became a little bit unaggressive. We tried to talk about attacking the basket a little bit more, and we never really got to that point … but in the second half, we were more aggressive with it.”
The new-found focus on taking the ball into the paint resulted in several trips to the free-throw line, including Miller’s 4-of-5 mark over the final eight minutes, including an and-one that gave the Wingers a 49-34 lead with 3:11 to play.
Miller ended the game with 17 points, one more than Isaac Toivonen’s 16. Isaac added 10 rebounds and five assists for a double-double.
Red Wing (16-8 overall, 5-7 Missota) will close out the regular season next week with a trip to Chanhassen on Tuesday, and a home date with Shakopee Friday for Senior night.