Six degrees of separation is a notion that’s become part of the culture. It is a belief that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.
Sports like basketball have similar notions. The idea that on any given night any one team can beat another team.
Or the belief that if you play a team tough and that team beats a team that beats the number one ranked team in the state, then you could beat the number one team in the state.
That’s kind of what happened to the Saints boys basketball team in the Holiday Tournament SJA hosted last Thursday and Friday.
On Thursday the Saints lost to the Rockford Rockets by seven with the score being 70-63. The Rockets went on to win the championship by seven over a very good Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta team.
Earlier in December Morris Area had beaten what was at the time the number one ranked team in Minnesota - Litchfield.
So on any given night the Saints could beat..... Unfortunately, the two losses in this tourney means the reality is the boys only have one win to show for their play in December. They have played some good teams, but the Saints have only one win to show for it.
There was one other very important degree of separation burdening the Saints last week. SJA was 100 percent separated from key starting player Walker Froehling, who was held out of both games because of a medical condition.
The condition required further testing, but dad and assistant basketball coach Landis Froehling was optimistic Walker might make it back this week.
It can’t be understated how big a loss the junior forward was for SJA.
Through the first games of December Froehling was the Saints number two scorer. He was the top three point shooter in shots attempted, made and was dropping in 52 percent of the shots from behind the arc.
Overall, among the starters, he was second in field goal percentage at 44 percent. He was second in free throws attempted and made.
Walker was first in assists, blocks and rebounds. Oh, and at 6’5” he’s the tallest player the Saints can put on the floor.
This is not the kind of player SJA fans wanted to see riding the pine during this tourney.
Page 2 of 3 - The challenge for SJA going into this tourney was to make adjustments to how the team played their opponents with Froehling sidelined.
Rockford 70 SJA 63
The Saints played the Rockford Rockets in the opening tourney game and lost 70-63. The Saints came from way down in the second half - the boys trailed by 13 at the 9:15 mark and managed to tie the score at 62 all with 1:48 to go.
Unfortunately Rockford went on an 8-1 run scoring most of their final points on free throws to secure the win.
The game started with Rockford building a small lead and Ryan Menssen tied it up at seven with a three point shot.
Rockford went on a 12-3 run to pull out to a 19-10 lead. Many of the Saints early season games have had this pattern. The team plays close, falls behind, then battles back to tie or take a small lead.
The Saints trailed 37 to 30 at the half. Rockford held a ten point lead or larger most of the second half, and the Rockets were up by 10 with four minutes to go when SJA went on a 10-zip run. Menssen tied it up with a steal and a layup.
Menssen led the Saints with 16 points, Zach Brandts had 14 and Joe Nelson had 13.
Belle Plaine 75 Saints 62
Having lost in the opening round, the Saints played the Belle Plaine Tigers for third place. SJA came up short in the consolation game by a 75 to 62 score.
The boys came out strong and opened up a 9-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game. They held a 20-15 lead at the 8:45 mark, but the Tigers went on a 7-1 run to take a 21-21 lead. An old fashion three point play by Zach Brandts put the Saints back in the lead 24-21, but at the half the score was tied 32 all.
Sam Carlson put the Saints on top at the start of the second half with a trey and the Saints led 37-34.
SJA last led at the 14:14 mark by a 41-40 score. The Tigers went on a 9-0 run to grab a 49-41 lead and never trailed.
SJA closed the Tigers lead to 63-58 with less than three minutes to play, but could get no closer.
Zach Brandts led the Saints with 28 points, he shot 59 percent from the floor and had a double double 12 rebounds. Joe Nelson was the only other Saint in double figures with 11.
Page 3 of 3 - Commenting on the tournament Head Coach Steve Walker said, “We played hard and had good comebacks in both games. For the tourney we turned it over too much - 20 in each game which makes it hard to win. We need to be better late in games.”