The boys basketball team started out the regular season with a great win at home and finished the regular season with a great win at home.

The team needs to improve a bit on what happens in the three months between the first and last games, but with a boatload of players coming back next year that is possible.

SJA Saints beat GHEC Mustangs 67-60

    The boys basketball team started out the regular season with a great win at home and finished the regular season with a great win at home.

    The team needs to improve a bit on what happens in the three months between the first and last games, but with a boatload of players coming back next year that is possible.

    For now, the Saints closed out the 2012-2013 regular season with a satisfying 67-60 win over GHEC.

    It was good to get a win for the seniors on parents night. Heck, it was good to get a win for everybody. The Saints finished the regular season 3-21.

    But on Monday night, Saints were the better team on the floor and outplayed the competition.

    In the first half the Saints took an early lead and built it up to an 11-4 score at the 13:45 mark on a nifty scoop shot by Zach Brandts.

    The Mustangs came back with an 11-2 run and took a 15-13 lead. This type of run by an opponent had been an all too often experience suffered by the boys this year. Based on the season record it meant the Saints fell behind and didn’t win.

    Monday was different. The Saints hung tough,  got back into the lead and pushed it back out to a 21-15 lead.

    A driving layup by Ryan Menssen  kept the Saints in the lead 25-21.

    Menssen has developed into the Saint’s third scoring option this year. He’s a slasher that attacks the basket. He played fullback for the football team, and plays basketball a bit like a fullback.   

    Menssen has an instinctual ability to spot the smallest gap in a defense and charge through it to the basket. I don’t think this can be coached, you’ve either got it or you don’t. Ryan’s got it.  

    With a little over three minutes to go in the half, GHEC pulled within one at 27-26 on a pair of free throws and the Mustangs tied the game at 30 with 1:35 to go.      

    Then it was time for another chapter of the Zach Brandts scoring show. Zach scored the go ahead basket with 1:25 to go and put the Saints up 32-30. SJA got the ball back and with nanoseconds on the clock Zach  tipped a missed basket in and that put the Saints up by four at the half.

    On that play there was no time to grab a rebound and put another shot back up, it was score on a tip or nothing. The ball went in at the buzzer. The refs took a look at each other on whether the ball went in time. They both nodded yes, and one of them thrust his arm down to count the basket.  

    It wasn’t known at the time, but that score meant the Saints would never be tied or trail the rest of the game.   

    The Saints were steady in the early minutes of the second half and a driving layup along the baseline by Sam Carlson put SJA up 41-35 with a little over 16 minutes to play.     During this stretch Walker Froehling     had a smooth tip in of a missed shot that rivaled in style points the Brandts tip in of the first half.

    With just under eight minutes to play the Saints built their largest lead when the scoreboard flashed 55-41.

    GHEC scored and called time out. After the break the Mustangs came out in a full court press. It caught the Saints flatfooted and  GHEC started to force some turnovers. The Saints got out of the synch.

    GHEC went on a 17-6 run to close the lead to 61-58 with just under two minutes to play. The Saints made just enough shots down the stretch to win it 67-60.

    Brandts led the Saints with 27 points, Menssen had 15 and Froehling had a dozen.

    In their last home game as Saints Sam Carlson had six and Joe Nelson had two points. Head Coach Steve Walker said, “It was a great way for our two seniors to go out.”

    Summarizing the game Walker said, “We ran the court well at times and got some easy transition layups. We had good ball movement most of the time and rebounded fairly well against a team with some size and physical players inside. We made enough FT's down the stretch to hold on.”

    Now the road to the state tournament begins and the Saints have to play conference foe Fairmont at the Cardinals’ gym in an opening 3AA Section game. SJA is eighth seeded and Fairmont is top seeded.

The Saints played Fairmont close at home before Christmas and then lost by 30 at Fairmont on the last day of January.

    Third time’s a charm? Well, in the tourney both teams start out 0-0. Coach Walker said, “Fairmont is a very good team. They are athletic at all five spots on the floor.

    “We are confident that if we play the way we are capable we have a shot to pull off an upset.  I think our kids feel they have something to prove.  But, you still have to play at a high level in tourney play on the road if you are to get wins at this time of the year.  We will do our best.”

SJA falls to Cedar Mt./Comfrey 84-68

    The Saints were on the road last Thursday playing a game with Cedar Mt./Comfrey that was originally scheduled for Monday. Bad weather canceled the game on Monday and the coming storm of last week threatened the rescheduled game.

    But the weather held off and the Saints were able to get the game in. Unfortunately it was another loss for SJA as they fell to the CMC Cougars 84-68.

    Zach Brandts led the Saints with 21 points. Joe Nelson and Ryan Menssen each had a dozen points.

    Brandts and Walker Froehling each had 12 rebounds. The Saints are often out rebounded, but in this game SJA out rebounded CMC 44 to 38. The Saints dominated the offensive boards collecting 19 board to CMC’s seven.

    What offset a strong rebounding night was a poor shooting night. The Saints shot just 33 percent from the floor and were 4-22 from beyond the arc for a 22 percent result.  

    CMC shot 52 percent. The Cougars made ten more baskets while taking ten less shots.

    Head Coach Steve Walker said, “We got off to a good start and we played well in spurts.

    “We had too many quick possessions. When we were patient we got any shot we wanted to get, so there wasn’t a need for quick shots.

    It was one of those nights where the Saints got off to a good start, but  fell behind as the first half progressed. SJA trailed by 14 at the half. SJA played CMC just about even in the second half, but the deficit was too much to make up.