‘It’s not going to be easy’

Minneota boys stave off Lancers’ comeback effort for 61-58 win

Photo by Jake McNeill Minneota forward Sawyer DeSmet takes a shot from the post during the first half of a boys basketball game against Canby on Tuesday night. The Vikings defeated the Lancers 61-58.

MINNEOTA — In a back-and-forth game in which neither team could seem to pull away, it was the Minneota boys basketball team that held on for a win Tuesday night against Canby, holding off a late Lancer rally for a 61-58 win.

The Vikings’ Tuesday night win comes following an 84-66 win over Lac qui Parle Valley on Thursday. The win was Minneota head coach Chad Johnston’s 500th career win and guard Max Rost scored his 1,000th career point in the game. Both were recognized for their milestones prior to tip-off.

“We’ve just got to learn from it,” Johnston said of the second-half scare. “My emphasis to our guys is having to play smart basketball. They run a 1-2 [zone] and they’re extended. I’ve got everyone running around the perimeter and nobody’s standing in the middle. We’ve got to learn from that.”

The Vikings came out of the locker room for halftime with a 28-25 lead. Sawyer DeSmet started the second half on a high note with a basket to give the Vikings some extra breathing room and, after Zach Ourada drove to the rim for a pair of points for the Lancers, DeSmet came up with a steal on the Vikings’ next defensive possession and was fouled while attempting a transition dunk. He knocked down both free throws to give the Vikings a 32-27 lead after the first two minutes.

A Peyton Sheik floater gave Minneota its first-double-digit lead of the half and he went down to knock down a pair of free throws on the next possession to put the Vikings up 46-33 with under 12 minutes to play. Yet, the Lancers rallied.

“The message was that we’ve been here before,” Canby head coach Sawyer Hansen said. “I think we’ve lost more close games this year than some teams do in three years. We’ve been here before and I think we saw some growth tonight from our team in that aspect because they went on that big run to start the half…. We had a chance tonight to throw in the towel. Well, the kids definitely didn’t do that.”

Ourada started to cut into the deficit for Canby with a 3-pointer and a Liam Macarthur Layup cut it back to single digits. From there, Michael Tol, Ourada and MacArthur each hit another shot to make it a one-possession game. MacArthur finally got the game tied up at 46-46 after knocking down a pair of free throws with eight minutes to play.

The Vikings staved off the Lancers’ run until, with under three minutes to play, a Tol 3-pointer gave Minneota its first lead of the second half, 54-53. Brady Hulzebos then knocked down a free throw to make it a 2-point Canby lead.

“We just couldn’t score,” Johnston said. “We went a long time at 46 [points] and they switched up their defense a little bit and we just did not attack the way we normally do. I mean, we attacked it in the last two or three minutes the way we’re supposed to, but for a while there we weren’t getting that ball in the middle… nobody was looking to pull the trigger and we just allowed them to slowly come back.”

The game went scoreless for over a minute before DeSmet was fouled with 70 seconds remaining. He made the first of his shots, missed the second, but Canby was called for a travel on the defensive rebound and Rost capitalized with a go-ahead shot.

Kolton Duis tied the game back up at 56-56 with a pair of shots from the charity stripe with 43 seconds to play. Yet, a Rost and-1 gave the Vikings a 3-point lead with 22 seconds left. Minneota accidentally fouled Hulzebos in the paint, preventing any tying attempt. Hulzebos hit both shots but, with 8.8 seconds remaining, they needed to intentionally foul. Ryan Dalager stepped up and made both clutch shots for the Vikings to make it a 3-point game and Canby’s attempt to tie the game at the buzzer fell no good as the Vikings held on.

Rost led all scorers on the night with 21 points on 9-of-9 shooting for Minneota while Tol added another 20 points on 7-of-20 shooting for the Lancers. The Vikings showcased their balanced scoring depth on the night, with Jerzak and Sheik scoring 10 apiece and Dalager and DeSmet each finishing with 9, while Ourada was Canby’s second-leading scorer with 15 points.

Minneota started the first half on a 7-0 run, courtesy of a Rost floater, Sheik 3-pointer and Dalager Eurostep layup on consecutive possessions. Still, the Lancers battled back until Ourada tied it up at 15-15 with eight minutes remaining in the half. A few minutes later, Tol cut into the Minneota lead with a 3-pointer and hit another on the following possession to give the Lancers their first lead of the game, 20-19, with under 5:40 remaining in the first half.

Jerzak responded to Tol’s solo run with a 3-pointer of his own and, after a Duis made free throw, Rost and DeSmet each knocked down a shot to give Minneota a 26-21 lead.

Minneota built a 42-31 advantage on the glass in the game. Leading the way was DeSmet with 12 rebounds, six on each side of the floor, while Sheik and Dalager added another nine and seven rebounds respectively. Tol led Canby with six rebounds while Duis and Hulzebos each contributed another five.

“We’re getting better after every game. You always want to win games, but you try not to just look at the wins and losses as a result of the game. Try to look at the little things,” Hansen said. “Every game we have one or two things that we clean up and now we just have to find a way to put all these little things together.”

Hansen specifically cited making free throws down the stretch and boxing out for rebounds as things he’s seen his team grow in.

Dalager led Minneota with six assists on the day while Cayden Anderson and Hulzebos each had four for the Lancers. Anderson did not turn the ball over.

Minneota improves to 16-6 with the win while Canby falls to 10-9. The Vikings will host Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (12-8) for their second-to-last home game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. while Canby will host Yellow Medicine East (2-17) at the same time. The Panthers have consistently been in high-scoring affairs all season, including a double-overtime win over Central Minnesota Christian on Monday.

“At this point in time, we kind of need to win out. And it’s not going to be easy,” Johnston said, saying that Friday’s game will be key for the team in terms of where they stack up in the conference and the section. “Tracy had a good win last night [Monday] and they’ve got great players, a good young group similar to this as far as the style of play that they want to play. We’ve just got to keep things clicking.”


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