Behind 20+ point efforts of juniors Walker Froehling and Zach Brants, the Saints pummeled county rival Madelia 95-50 Tuesday night at the St. James High School Gym.
It wasn’t as close as the final score indicates, as the Saints led 63 to 31 at the end of the first half.
That had me wondering what the school record was for points in a game. But it was not to be as the Saints backed off the thrashing in the second half and rules in games with big leads require the clock to continue to run when the ball is out of bounds or play is stopped.
It’s great to start the boys basketball season with a win like this. Watonwan County boy basketball bragging rights? Done!
The Saints scored in the opening seconds of the game. Froehling got the opening tap and fired a pass to Ryan Menssen who had sprinted to the baseline and scored an easy two point bucket with just eight seconds gone.
For the night Froehling led the team with 23 points, Brandts had 21 and Menssen was the other Saint in double figures with 15.
The two other starters Joe Nelson at point guard and Sam Carlson at center each had seven points.
A game like this allowed Head Coach Steve Walker the chance to play many reserves giving the crop junior players a chance to get some valuable game experience.
Top scorers among the boys who came off the bench were Jonathon Peterson with six. John Olsen and Devon Schmitz each had five points.
The Saints opened up the game with a full court pressure defense which produced an abundance of Madelia turnovers.
Even though Madelia couldn’t handle the press from the outset, the Saints were a bit slow out of the starting blocks. SJA led 4-0 with three minutes gone in the game. The Saints may have started slow, but confounded by the SJA press, Madelia started a whole lot slower.
Froehling got a large roar from the Saints fans when he dunked on Madelia off of one of the turnovers. Unofficial stats had the Saints with 29 turnovers for the game.
Zach Brandts said, “On our side I think we played really good defense. We’re a lot quicker this year.”
Another time Froehling nailed a three was fouled and converted the free throw for a four point play.
Page 2 of 3 - Froehling was 4 of 6 in three point shots, led the team with nine rebounds and also led the team with eight assists.
Commenting on Froehling’s assists, Coach Walker said, “Walker sees the floor real well.”
Both he and Brandts were outside threats last year, but both players showed much more of an inside game Tuesday night as the junior juggernauts were all over the floor when it came to scoring, rebounding and dishing out assists.
Brandts had eight rebounds and four assists. “Zach is just a warrior on the boards,” Walker said. Menssen was second in assists with five.
Nelson picked up his second foul with just under twelve minutes in the half so the point guard duties were shared by several players.
Coach Walker said he had four or five kids who can handle the ball and bring it up the floor, so the loss of Neslon shouldn’t negatively impact the Saints. It didn’t in this game.
Another three resulted in the Saints doubling up on Madelia at 32-16 with a little under seven minutes left in the first half. This was part of a stretch where the Saints tossed in at least four treys. That barrage meant the Saints were up 44-20 with about 5:10 to go in the half.
Coach Walker said, “We’ve got a lot of guys who can shoot threes. We’ve got about six guys who can shoot threes and aren’t afraid of taking the shot.”
For the game, the Saints shot 59% from the floor. “I’ll say it every day. The game is 100% easier to coach when you are making shots,” Walker said.
The Saints ended their scoring in the half by Joe Nelson scoring on a scoop shot, was fouled and dropped in the freethrow.
So the Saints had 63 at the half.
The second half started with Froehling feeding Carlson and Brandts for buckets that were scored in the paint.
Coach Walker did rest his regulars more in the second half. The Saints put in a complete second team with less than 13 minutes to go in the second half. He also backed off the press most of the second half.
The Saints starters did rotate in and out the rest of the game.
Madelia did close the lead to 79-46, but the Saints went on another scoring burst pushing the lead to 87-46.
Page 3 of 3 - The Saints took the scoring opportunities when they came up. Tyler Witcraft made a lovely floater in the lane in the last minute of the game. He came back with another steal and a feed that produced the final points for the Saints. The Saints finished with a flourish.
“This was a good one - a good win. We got to play a lot of kids,” Coach Walker said.