MARSHALL - Despite a late rally by the visiting Redwood Valley Cardinals, home court advantage held sway for the Marshall Tigers in an early season tilt between two Southwest Conference boys' basketball teams, as the Tigers picked up their first victory of the season on Tuesday, 69-62.
The Tigers (1-1 overall, 1-0 Southwest Conference) were led offensively by the combined efforts of Austin Saugstad, who scored a team-high 20 points, Tanner Bukowski (15 points) and Riley Sharbono (14 points). Aaron Mathiowetz also reached double digits with 10 points, while pulling down a game-high eight rebounds.
"I think we're starting to put it together," Saugstad said of the teams all-around performance. "The first game is always a little rough with a new coach and new team, but we really worked hard and got focused to be ready for this one."
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall senior forward Aaron Mathiowetz releases a free throw attempt during the second half of the Tigers’ Southwest Conference opener against Redwood Valley Tuesday night at Marshall High School. Mathiowetz finished the game with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Marshall trailed just twice in the game and not again after a Sharbono basket gave the Tigers at 7-6 lead with 13 mintues, 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Tigers followed the Sharbono layup with a 13-0 run that lasted eight minutes. It was their defense during the stretch, lasting nearly half of the first half, more than their offense that allowed the Tigers to take a 36-26 lead into halftime.
Marshall held the Cardinals to 29 percent field goal percentage in the first half, but the trend would not last as Redwood Valley shot 54 percent after halftime to force the Tigers to earn their first win under head coach Travis Carroll.
Aaron Mathiowetz 3 4-5 10, Hunter Peterson 3 1-2 7, Austin Saugstad 6 8-9 20, Derek Buysse 1 2-2 4, Riley Sharbono 5 2-2 14, Tanner Bukowski 5 5-6 15. Totals 23 22-26 69. 3-pointers 2 (Sharbono 2) Rebounds 33 (Mathiowetz 8, Saugstad 6) Assists 10 (Bukowski 6) Steals 11 (Peterson 4) Blocks 1 (Peterson) Turnovers 10 Total Fouls 18.
Redwood Valley (62)
Thane Widmer 1 0-0 2, Alec Koster 5 6-8 20, Joe Smith 4 5-6 17, Adam Hengel 1 0-2 2, Mitchell Fischer 5 0-0 12, Steven Runkel 4 0-0 9. Totals 20 11-14 62. 3-pointers 11 (Koster 4, Smith 4) Rebounds 21 (Fischer 6, Koster 5) Assists 12 (Fischer 3) Steals 6 Blocks 0 Turnovers 18 Total Fouls 21.
Halftime Score: Marshall 36, Redwood Valley 26
"We're at that point in the year where we're still learning," Carroll said. "Hopefully going forward when we have these guys in the gym at practice we can continue to build on that eight-minute stretch. That was a good eight minutes, but we'd like to have that be a larger amount of time because I thought our guys were playing at a very high level."
After the break, the teams traded buckets until the 13:07 mark when a 6-0 run by the Tigers over 30 seconds gave Marshall its biggest lead since leading 20-6 at the 6:52 mark of the first half.
Led by Tanner Bukowski's six assists, the Tigers did a better job of distributing the ball against Redwood Valley than in the team's opening game against Fairmont on Saturday. The increase in offensive diplomacy led to the four Tigers in double figures, while keeping the game out of reach for its majority.
"I think the guys shared the ball very well tonight," Carroll said. "They were looking for each other and they took some pretty good shots. We attacked the rim pretty well and I thought they were taking some high percentage shots, but that is something that we can also improve on as we go forward."
Defensively, the Tigers forced 18 Redwood Valley turnovers, including an errant pass with 2:13 remaining in the game in the middle of a 6-0 Marshall run.
The Cardinals had previously used a 7-0 run of their own from 4:31 to 2:19 to cut the Marshall lead to its lowest point since the 13:10 mark of the first half.
Led by 20 points from Alec Koster and 17 from Joe Smith, who each hit four 3-pointers, the Cardinals (3-1, 1-1) nearly tied the game before Derek Buysse hit a pair of free throws to kick start Marshall's game clinching 6-0 run.
Saugstad added two points following the key Cardinal turnover, then sank two free throws with 1:13 to go allowing Marshall to salt the game away at the line. Marshall was 21 of 25 from the stripe for the game, led by Saugstad who was 7 of 8 (3 of 4 with under 90 seconds remaining in the game).
"I got into a little foul trouble on Saturday and it just made it tough to get involved," Saugstad said. "Tonight I tried to stay out of that and was on the floor a little bit more. You never want to lose in the conference and it's always fun to come out with a W."
For Carroll, the importance of getting off to the right start in conference play was not lost, especially with a road trip to Worthington (2-1, 1-1) looming on Friday.
"It's very important to start conference play off with a good start and it's also important to win your conference games at home, because when you go on the road there are going to be some difficult games," Carroll said. "We'll find that out on Friday when we go to Worthington."