Published 11:46 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012
By Riley Worth
With both teams fighting for improved seedings in next week’s Section 1AAA tournament, Thursday’s rescheduled contest between Albert Lea and Waseca boys’ basketball had the feel of a playoff game, both on the court and in the stands. For the Tigers, that playoff-level intensity may have proven detrimental.
After the Tigers controlled the tempo in the first half (see: high scoring), Waseca held Albert Lea to 12 percent shooting in the second half in rolling to a 67-64 victory. That ties the season series at 1-1, as Albert Lea won an equally close game in its holiday tournament (64-60) over the Bluejays. Albert Lea is now 7-17 on the season, with its final game tonight at Rochester John Marshall.
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“The crowd was amazing tonight, but we didn’t execute fundamentally,” said senior Kyle Ooms, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “We didn’t get good shots.”
The Bluejays’ swarming defense forced the Tigers into turnovers and quick shots from the outside. Albert Lea made just 4 of 34 second-half shots.
“I think (the crowd) got really excited and the crowd was into the game so we wanted to put on a show,” said senior Evan Templeman (16 points), whose game-tying 3-point attempt with three seconds left danced on the rimmed and fell off. “We got away from our game.”
Albert Lea coach Lucas Kreuscher pointed to rebounding as the axel on which the game turned. Waseca was only 26 for 70 from the field, but nabbed 21 offensive rebounds.
“You don’t have to go much further than that,” Kreuscher said.
But, naturally, as a coach he did speak further, pointing out, among other things, he didn’t care for his team’s shot selection. Kreuscher said this wasn’t the brand of basketball he’s come to expect of this team.
“I don’t think we did a lot of things well,” he said. “Not up to our capabilities, up to the standards we have.”
Albert Lea led 41-38 at halftime, led by 13 points from Templeman and eight points from junior post Miles Erdman. The first minutes of the second half played even, neither team leading by more than two points, before the Bluejays went on an 11-4 run for a 61-54 lead.
In its attempt to crawl back into the game, Albert Lea missed some free throws (Waseca reached the 10-foul mark early in both halves). Then the game looked as if it might slide out of hand when Albert Lea had a fast-break dunk nullified by a travel, followed by a charge on its next possession. Intensity was high.
Templeman got the Tigers back on track with a layup with 4:15 remaining in the game, followed on the next possession by one free throw, cutting the deficit to four. Waseca extended the lead to eight before Albert Lea made one final run. Junior Dylan See-Rockers (six points) sunk two free throws and senior Tyler Wichmann (seven points) hit an eight-foot fadeaway jumper. Sophomore Cody Scherff (four points) made one free throw with 30 seconds remaining. He missed the second, then grabbed his own rebound, but could not convert.
Ooms made a pair of free throws with 12.4 seconds left to cut the deficit to three points, followed by two Waseca free throw misses. That set up Templeman’s final 3-pointer that caromed off.
Kreuscher said he was extremely appreciative of the student section, who came out in full force twice for this game (the first attempt at playing this game was cancelled minutes before varsity warmups because of a power outage on Tuesday). Kreuscher said it’s tough to simulate that amped up, playoff-type environment in practice, adding that feeling comfortable in high intensity games comes from nothing else but playing in high intensity games.
“I think we got too amped up and it led to some quick shots, which is something we can go back and work on,” he said. “We knew this was going to be like a tournament game and that the game was going to be a close one. We can only go back and learn from this.”
Waseca 38 29 — 67