Jackson County gets best of Saints, 78-67, for first win of the season

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

Despite both teams in the middle of down years, the rivalry between Jackson County Central and St. James Area was as alive and well as ever on Friday night, with the Huskies getting the better of the Saints 78-67, and securing their first win of the year in the process.

Jackson County brought the much-anticipated intensity early, jumping out to a 13-7, and then forcing back-to-back charges on the Saints to fire up the away crowd. The Huskies quickly extended their lead to 18-9, and forcing three early timeouts from St. James.

"This is a rivalry game, it doesn't matter what the other team's record is," said head coach Spencer Monson. "It's always a good game. It was an intense game both ways and it's going to be that way every time we play them."

After being injured in the opening minutes, sophomore guard Travis Rogotzke took over for Jackson. Rogotzke tallied 12 points in the final six minutes of the half, including two three-pointers, to lead Jackson into the break with a 34-24 advantage.

Trailing by 13 after a Carter Ahrens three, the Saints woke up. Hunter Stevens canned a three, which was followed by a bucket from Hayden Jones. Stevens and Jones each connected on a free throw and a one-and-one conversion by Michael Suarez cut the lead down to four.

In the final 11:00, for every punch that the Saints collectively threw, Rogotzke had the answer.

"He just shot the ball well," said Monson. "He got some looks and he took advantage of them."

A triple by Alex Stresemann with just under eight minutes remaining cut the lead to 58-57. Out of a timeout called by head coach Alex Hein, Rogotzke was fouled on a three and buried all three freebies from the line. Another Stresemann basket was countered by a three from Rogotzke.

On the next Saints possession, Tanner Olson—who was forced into the starting lineup due to Connor Jones' absence—corraled an offensive rebound and putback, keeping the Saints within a possession.

"He's just brought a solid presence to the team and he's been a pretty solid shooter throughout the year so it takes one of our shooting threats out," said Monson of Jones. "Defensively with rebounding, we missed him tonight, too"

Olson scored four points and secured a pair of offensive rebounds down the stretch to help keep the Saints alive.

In the final minutes, St. James couldn't quite keep up with Jackson, and the Huskies converted from the line down the stretch, fending off any chance of a St. James comeback. 

Hayden Jones finished with 19 to lead St. James scorers. Stresemann continued to his strong week with 16 points. 

"He just keeps getting better and better," said Monson. "He's been a really solid shooting threat for us too as the year has gone on. He's a hard worker in practice, we see it every day, so we're seeing more results on the court."

Michael Suarez scored 13 points but battled foul trouble throughout. 

On Monday at Blue Earth, the #15 ranked Bucs once again used a balanced scoring attack—much like in the earlier matchup against their conference foes—to take care of St. James 68-57.

Ashton Lloyd scored 15 points, while Cameron Anderson and Gavin Storbeck each scored 14. Braden Gudahl scored 11.

Hayden Jones led the Saints with 25 points. Steven Balbuena scored all 11 of his points in the second half. Stresemann had 13. 

The two losses drops St. James to 2-12 and host Pipestone on Friday.