NRHEG takes down Blooming Prairie

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chad Agrimson of NRHEG shoots over a Blooming Prairie defender Tuesday at New Richland. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Chad Agrimson of NRHEG shoots over a Blooming Prairie defender Tuesday at New Richland. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

NEW RICHLAND — Clutch shooting from beyond the 3-point arc lifted the Panthers to the top of the Gopher Conference standings.

Spencer Tollefson scored a game-high 34 points on Tuesday to lead the NRHEG boys’ basketball team to an 83-63 win over Blooming Prairie.

The Panthers led by as many as 20 points in the first half, but the Awesome Blossoms mounted a comeback.

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Blooming Prairie whittled their deficit down to seven points with 11:35 left in regulation. Tollefson pushed NRHEG’s lead back to 10 points by drilling a 3-pointer. Two minutes later when the lead was down to seven, he buried another.

At the eight-minute mark, the Panthers’ lead was again reduced to single digits, 63-55. However, Oakley Baker drained a trey to further deflate the Blossoms, and NRHEG ended the game on a 20-8 run.

“We had to fend them off, and fortunately enough we hit some shots and push the lead back out,” said NRHEG coach Pat Churchill. “It seemed like somebody always stepped up when we needed somebody to hit a shot.”

In the first half, that was Tollefson and Trevor Tracy. Tollefson led all scorers at halftime with 14 points on perfect shooting from the field, 4-for-4, and free-throw line, 6-for-6.

However, it was Tracy who provided the spark after the opening tip. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, which included a pair of 3-pointers and a play where he was on the receiving end of a non-dunk alley-oop.

“Trevor got going right away, and then everyone else got going,” said Tollefson.

Tracy said the normal offensive progression led to the team’s double-digit lead in the first half.

“We just run our motion offense, and as soon as one of our shooters gets an open look, we take the shot,” he said.

With 1:08 before halftime, a pair of free throws by Tollefson gave NRHEG a 41-21 lead. The Blossoms responded with a 10-2 run that included a layup at the buzzer.

As the exclamation point on the Panthers’ win, Luke Overgaard beat the buzzer at the end of regulation with a runner in the lane.

The Panthers (10-2 overall, 5-1 Gopher Conference) are first of the standings because of their five wins. It’s a logjam at the top. With Maple River’s 75-56 win Tuesday at United South Central, the Rebels and Eagles are 4-1.

USC hosts NRHEG at 7:15 p.m. Friday. A win would help either team distance itself from the rest of the pack.

Maple River’s only conference loss was 58-41 on Dec. 18 at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. NRHEG’s only conference loss was Dec. 12 at home against Maple River.