The SJA boys basketball team hosted the No. 2 ranked team in the state of Minnesota, the St. Peter Saints last Friday. SJA lost a tough one in overtime 88-81.
Our Saints led late in regulation, but couldn’t make enough free throws to put the visitors away.
St. Peter came into the game 9-1 and SJA was 1-8, but for much of the game, our Saints played like they were 8-1 as they continually made the plays a team needs to make to knock off the No. 2 ranked team.
SJA managed to get out to a 7-4 lead. Ryan Menssen help nailing a trey. From that point St. Peter went on a 13-0 run to lead 20-7, and it would seem the rout was on.
But the Saints clawed their way back to trail 20-16. Walker Froehling had a down low jumper to cap the run that included an old fashioned three point play by Menssen.
Once again St. Peter seemed like it was ready to pull away going on a 10-4 spurt to open a 10 point lead at 30-20 at just under four minutes in the first half.
SJA came back with a flourish as Zach Brandts hit a base line layup, made two free throws and Froehling hit a three point shot, so the Saints trailed at the half 32-27.
SJA stunned St. Peter in the first minute of the second half, as our Saints went on a 7-0 run to take a 34-32 lead. St. Peter Head Coach Kelly Raymond called time out to read his team the riot act. Raymond was more than a little boisterous during the game. Thought the hometown crowd was even more boisterous, as they were getting into the game in a very loud way.
But for most of the second half, St. Peter couldn’t get it going. They probably just got tight as they found themselves in a scrap with a team they should have easily handled. Their three pointers were not falling, they were passing on shots, they were getting out hustled for the ball.
St. Peter is big and talented. Their center is 6’8” Peter Kruize, and he does have some skills. If he got the ball down long he was difficult to stop.
SJA continued to play tough over the course of the next five minutes of the second half as teams swapped narrow leads of two or four points only to have the other team come back.
The SJA basketballers were playing hard. In one sequence with SJA on defense, Brandts dove for a loose ball. It looked like he’d be tied up, but Zach flipped it out to Froehling who took a couple of dribbles and then heaved a three quarter court pass to Sam Carlson who laid it in for a 45-42 lead at the 11:24 mark.
Page 2 of 3 - The good Saints continued to hold a narrow lead until the visitors took a 60-58 lead with a little over four minutes left in the game.
Menssen got the lead back for SJA with a three point bomb with just over three minutes to play. Fired up, Menssen was dancing to the roar of the crowd and skipped down the court on defense after giving the Saints a 64-62 lead. SJA pushed it out to a 67-62 lead.
Then, as the game got into the last minutes, St. Peter started playing more like the No. 2 team in the state.
Sam Carlson was fouled, with the St. Peter player taking a wicked fall as he prevented Carlson from scoring any easy two. The St. Peter player was down and in pain for several minutes before he got up.
With 52 seconds left Carlson made 1 of 2 two free throws. St. Peter came down in quick order and made a three pointer - 70-68 with under 40 seconds to go.
Joe Nelson was fouled and made both foul shots for a four point 72-68 lead with 37 seconds to go.
St. Peter scored a two point bucket with 26 seconds to go. Up 72 to 70 with 23 seconds to go Menssen was fouled. He missed a pair of free throws. Saint Peter made a pair of free throws to tie it.
Nelson laid it in for another Saints lead. Then with 1.8 seconds left Menssen fouled big man Kruize. Menssen fouled out and Kruize had two free throws to tie the game.
He made the first shot and Head Coach Steve Walker called time out to ice him. Kruize made the second shot.
In overtime, the Saints Devon Schmitz hit the first bucket - a two point layup for a SJA lead.
St. Peter hit a three, Nelson playing very well down the stretch came back and hit a three for the Saints.
St. Peter came back and hit another three. They made the free throws down the stretch and pulled away from SJA. In the last minute of the game and the four minutes of OT, St. Peter had a 23-11 run on SJA.
Brandts led the Saints with 29, Menssen had 20 and Froehling had 14. Froehling was also the top rebounder with nine.
Coach Walker summed it up, “This was a very tough loss and the kids took it hard. It’s not every day you get a great chance to upset the No. 2 team in the state.
Page 3 of 3 - “I was so proud of how our team played - all 12 guys were into the game and cheering for each other which is always great to see.
“We battled but it came down to they made a couple of plays and a couple of shots at the end of the game and we didn't. They scored on 11 of their last 12 possessions in the game so hats off to them. They are a great team but we showed that despite our record we are capable of playing with anyone on a given night.
“St. Peter has only been giving up about 45 a game and only loss is to #1 team in the state Pelican Rapids by four.”
Talking about SCC play Walker said, “In four of our five conference games it has been a one possession game in the last 20 seconds. At some point we hope things even out and we get a couple of those games the second time through our league which starts Friday at Waseca.
“I am very proud of our team and the effort they gave on Friday night. I’m also very happy with the great student support at the game. It was so loud in the gym that we couldn’t always get directives to the kids but what a great atmosphere for the guys to play in and be a part of.”