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Tigers fall to the Spartans

The Albert Lea basketball team came into the game against Rochester Mayo on Tuesday night looking to start a win streak and climb to within one game of the .500 mark.

Despite an outstanding first half of basketball, the Tigers could not keep pace with the Spartans in the second half, eventually falling 86-71.

After a cold streak to open the game, the Tigers went on a big run with senior Chay Guen leading the charge. Guen scored 12 of the team’s first 22 points and assisted on six more. Guen also had a big block that sent energy through the crowd and swung the momentum back in favor of the Tigers.

“Chay is dominant and he is going to do what he does,” said head coach Lantt Benvavidez. “Luckily tonight we had a pretty good advantage, a pretty good mismatch going on with his height compared to some of the guys that were guarding him, so we were able to take advantage of that.”

Mayo was forced to take a timeout to try and halt the momentum of Guen and Albert Lea, and it worked for a few minutes, as Mayo went on a 10-point run and jumped ahead of Albert Lea 30-22.

The Tigers were not out of it yet and came storming back once again. This time it was senior Connor Veldman who rallied the team with eight straight points to even the game at 30-30. Back-to-back slams from Guen brought the crowd to its feet, and suddenly the Tigers were on top 34-30.

“(The crowd) was huge tonight,” Benavidez said. “Having the student section packed is huge. Our guys feed off that and they play well.”

Albert Lea senior Koby Hendrickson uses a screen to beat a Rochester Mayo defender Tuesday night at home. Hendrickson had 10 points for the Tigers in the 86-71 loss to the Spartans. – Tyler Julson/Albert Lea Tribune

The Spartans hit a couple of quick shots, including a last second buzzer-beater to take the lead before halftime, 38-36.

Through the first half Guen led the Tigers with 18 points and Veldman had 12. Seniors Logan Howe and Koby Hendrickson and freshman Pal Wal combined for six.

Guen came out in the second half with another quick basket to tie the game, but the Spartans then went on a 14-4 run. The Tigers again made a small comeback, pulling to within three points, however, it was not enough.

Mayo went white hot from three-point range midway through the second half and pulled away, at one point leading by 17 points.

“All credit to Mayo,” Benavidez said. “They did a heck of a job and played a good game, we just fell short … We followed the game plan and we fought hard. It’s hard with a seven-man rotation right now, but we’ll figure it out and we’ll be back.”

Guen led the team in scoring with 29 points. Veldman finished with 15 and Hendrickson had 10. Wal recorded seven and senior Andrew Willner totaled six, while Howe and junior Bhan Kuey each had two.

The Tigers fall to 4-7 on the season and will be back on the court Friday when they hit the road to take on the Panthers of Rochester Century.

Senior Connor Veldman drives to the basket Tuesday night at home. Veldman went on an 8-0 run himself in the first half to bring the Tigers out of an eight-point deficit. – Tyler Julson/Albert Lea Tribune

 

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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