SLEEPY EYE - In the home opener for the Sleepy Eye St. Mary's boys' basketball team against Mankato Loyola on Monday night, the Knights were tasked with finding a way to win without two of the team's starters in the line-up.
A combination of strong senior leadership from Sean Mathiowetz and Jordan Anderson and big games from the team's younger players gave St. Mary's the spark it needed to produce a comfortable 74-59 nonconference win against the Crusaders.
"We've got kind of a different line-up out there, we've got two starters out, so it was a little different mix of kids," St. Mary's head coach Tim Milliard said. "But it was good to get some playing time for the guys, I thought they did some good things."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s Peyton Adams takes a shot over Reilly Knutson of Mankato Loyola during the first half Monday at SESM.
Knights sophomore Payton Adams was one of the players to see an increased role in the contest, making the most of his opportunity to play at home at the varsity level for the first time with a 14-point performance.
"It felt good, because first game, being young and never having played varsity before, to put up some numbers felt good," Adams said.
Mathiowetz (19 points) and Anderson (15 points) set the tone for St. Mary's in the contest with aggressive rebounding and smothering defense, helping the team lead by as many as 33 points before a late run by Loyola narrowed the gap at the end of the contest.
Mathiowetz and Anderson got started early, combining for the team's first nine points as the Knights pulled out to a 9-2 lead to start the game.
However, a 9-0 run that was sparked by six points by Loyola's Carson Seifert (13 points) gave the visitors their only lead of the contest at 11-9.
Adams followed with a 3-pointer that bounced all around the rim before finally dropping to hand St. Mary's back the lead. Adams scored the next basket as well to spur a 23-6 run for the Knights that gave them a healthy lead that the Crusaders never seriously threatened.
The run included 3-pointers from Mike Zinniel (six points, five rebounds), John Brandl (eight points, six rebounds) and David Suprenant (five points) that helped the Knights get into a offensive rhythm that lasted until the final few minutes of the game.
On the other side of the floor, the Knights played an aggressive zone defense that made Loyola earn all of its open looks, helping the home side take a 41-22 lead at halftime.
"We played more zone defense than we probably planned on, we played primarily zone, so that's a little different for us, too," Milliard said. "We felt with the line-up we had that we couldn't expend too much energy on the defensive end, so I thought they handled that well... we were pretty active, I thought we did a good job of getting any perimeter shooters, and I thought we did a good job of getting in some passing lanes."
Anderson, Mathiowetz and Adams combined for 23 of St. Mary's 33 points in the second half as the team built a 73-40 lead before the Crusaders put together a 19-1 run to end the contest.
Mathiowetz and Anderson led the Knights with 10 rebounds apiece, with Mathiowetz adding three assists, four blocks and a steal and Anderson contributing two assists and a steal.
Adams was a big player in the Knights' strategy to drive to the hoop and then kick the ball back out to the perimeter, earning three assists in the contest.
"I think we penetrated and kicked out real good," Adams said. "We drove in the lane and then kicked it out for 3, and we shot good."
Colin Hoffman (three points, one 3-pointer) and Jared Rothmeier (four points) rounded out the score sheet for the Knights.
Connor Tanhoff led Loyola with 17 points, including eight points during his team's late run.
St. Mary's (2-1) will open Tomahawk Conference play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday with a home game against Springfield.
The Knights are hoping to have Kansas Adams (ankle) and Mike Hirsch (travel) back for Friday's game.
"We start the conference on Friday with Springfield, that will be a tough game for us," Milliard said. "Hopefully we get a couple of our guys back and get healthy, and we'll see how it goes Friday."