LAKE CITY — Tuesday's game between Lake City and Rochester Lourdes looked like a good matchup on paper. The Tigers, ranked eighth in Class AA, were coming off a what-could've-been loss to third-ranked Caledonia, and the Eagles came in unbeaten over the season's first five games.
But by the time the first six minutes expired, Lake City had Lourdes on its heels, and the Tigers were ready to run the Eagles out of the gym and back home.
Instead, Lake City ran away with an 85-65 victory that featured some of the worst basketball the Tigers have played.
"We played sloppy basketball," said Lake City head coach Greg Berge. "(Lourdes) wants to up the pace, they gamble and take chances, and we knew that. But we fell into that tempo and had way too many turnovers. We could have scored a lot more than we did."
A dozen trips down the court for the Tigers resulted in no shot attempt, but did feature a pass thrown to an Eagle, to a teammate's feet or directly out of bounds. What was a lead that reached 21 at halftime, thanks to Nathan Heise's buzzer-beating shot off an inbounds pass with 0.6 seconds on the clock, could have easily been 35.
Then, in the second half, Lake City pushed the lead to 25, but saw it come back to 20 for the rest of the contest because while the offense got its act together, the defense fell apart.
"We were sloppy (offensively) in the first half, and I wasn't real happy with our defense in the second half. We're have a real good team defense. I told the guys it looked like they were playing 1-on-1 out there because no one was helping out," Berge said.
Despite the issues on both ends, four Tigers scored in double figures led by Marc Kjos' game-high 24. Zach Bremer had 21, with Heise adding 18 and Reid Gastner 10. Gastner also had seven assists and 13 rebounds with Charlie White and Kjos each coming away with two steals.
Lake City also had a decided advantage on the boards, 43-28, another stat that makes the final score seem misleading.
"Yeah, we got a win, we scored 85 points, we did some good things on offense in the second half, but, like I told the team, 'When we play games, we have to have the execution level like we're playing the most elite opponent we will all year," Berge said. "To reach the goals we have, we can't get sloppy and play with bad habits."
Through much of the game, Berge looked exasperated. It was an odd contrast with what the scoreboard showed, and how much fun the crowd was having with moments like when Heise crossed-over a defender who fell to the floor. It also seemed to show how good the Tigers are, that they could play so far below their abilities and still beat a solid opponent by 20.
But Berge is a coach, and perhaps there was no better game than Tuesday's for him to hammer home his talking points.
"We didn't play a perfect game, and I like striving for perfection," Berge said with a wide smile. "So that's just something we'll get to work on in practice."