SLEEPY EYE - For anyone who gets a thrill out of players missing shots, Friday night's Tomahawk Conference boys' basketball game between Sleepy Eye St. Mary's and Springfield wasn't for you.
Both teams shot exceptionally well throughout the contest, with each team keeping pace when the other got on a hot streak. In the end, the Knights' shooters proved just a bit hotter to help the team prevail for a 102-86 victory.
"The 102, honestly? It's not new, we could do it every game," St. Mary's senior Kansas Adams said. "We shoot 300 3s a practice, we don't feel any different when the ball's going through the hoop and when it's not, we shoot without conscience."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Springfield’s Cole Milbrath (23) takes a shot over Jared Rothmeier (22) and Mike Hirsch of Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s during the second half of the Tigers’ loss Friday in Sleepy Eye.
St. Mary's made 18 3-pointers in the contest, accounting for more than half of the team's points. The Tigers also netted their fair share of 3s, draining 11 in the game, but a barrage of points by the Knights just before halftime and early in the second half gave the home side enough of a margin to withstand Springfield's valiant attempt at a comeback.
"It was the kind of game that we're pretty comfortable with," St. Mary's head coach Tim Milliard said. "Springfield shot the ball really well, and that kind of contributed to a good pace and a good tempo. Even though we were down early, I was pleased with the tempo and the pace, because that's how we prefer to play."
The tone for the game was set straight away when St. Mary's senior Jordan Anderson and Springfield senior Isaac Kirschstein traded 3-pointers back and forth twice in a row.
The Tigers pulled out to a 13-6 lead, but Adams drained a 3 for the Knights to give his team a share of the lead for the first time at 13-13.
After a trio of lead changes the visitors created a 26-21 lead following back-to-back baskets by Cole Milbrath, but a 3-pointer by Knights sophomore Payton Adams followed by back-to-back 3s by Kansas Adams once again gave St. Mary's the lead at 30-26.
A 3 by St. Mary's sophomore Jared Rothmeier broke a 34-34 tie, but Springfield junior Cooper Scheffler hit a 3-pointer a short while later to tie the score again at 39-39.
However, when St. Mary's senior Sean Mathiowetz converted both free throws on a one-and-one attempt to give his team a 41-39 lead with three minutes left in the first half, the Knights didn't surrender the lead the rest of the contest.
"It was a back-and-forth game, they'd maintain the lead pretty well, they'd build it, then we'd come back, then they'd build it again," Milbrath said. "We had mental lapses sometimes, but we did pretty well, we had some pretty good ball movement and we worked it inside pretty well, and Isaac Kirschstein shot pretty well for us."
A 3 by Kirschstein cut the lead to 49-48 just before the half, but John Brandl and Payton Adams hit 3-pointers late in the half to give St. Mary's a 55-50 lead at the break.
"It was pretty big for them," Milbrath said of the Knights' spurt late in the first half. "We had some mental lapses right there at the end, missing defensive assignments. We switched to man right there at the end, we were playing zone before, and we just missed a guy and he knocked down some open 3s."
Anderson converted an and-one attempt and followed with a 3-pointer to give the Knights a good start to the second half, after which a 3 by Mathiowetz gave the Knights a 64-50 lead that turned out to be the biggest lead of the contest until the game's final basket was scored.
The Tigers fought back throughout the half to stay within striking distance, cutting the score to 75-70 after a 3 by Kirschstein and a basket by Karson Herfurth. However, an 8-0 run by the Knights that was capped by a Kansas Adams 3-pointer once again gave the home side a buffer.
"We felt we were just right there and couldn't get the critical stops, and that just cost us that game," Kirschstein said. "We didn't have any problems scoring points, that's more points than we scored all year, it just comes down to making stops, basically... we just didn't do that tonight, and you're just going to have nights where that team's going to shoot the lights out like they did tonight. They could beat anybody tonight."
Kirschstein scored 11 points in the final seven minutes of the game for the Tigers, but the Knights didn't cool down enough to allow Springfield to cut into the lead too much.
Kirschstein had a game-high 28 points, including a game-high six 3-pointers. Milbrath (nine rebounds) added 23 points for the Tigers and Tyler Vogel (seven rebounds) had 15 points. All of Vogel's points were scored in the first half.
Mathiowetz led the Knights with 25 points, with Kansas Adams contributing 23 points - including five 3-pointers - in his first game of the season after missing time with a knee injury. Brandl added 20 points and Anderson netted 16 points.
Springfield (2-1 overall, 0-1 in conference play) will look to use its season-high point total from Friday to help give it confidence heading into a 7:30 p.m. contest Tuesday at Minnesota Valley Lutheran.
Springfield head coach Lance Larson is also hoping his team's defense will step up not only Tuesday, but the next time that the Tigers face the Knights on Jan. 22.
"A lot of that is set up by our inability to defend the drive and giving them wide open looks," Larson said. "You could go back and watch the film, I don't think there were too many that were even contested. We're going to have to do a better job off the dribble. They're going to have nights where they shoot like that, and fortunately there's nights when they won't shoot like that too, so hopefully we'll catch them on one of them the second time."
St. Mary's (3-1, 1-0) will next play at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Sleepy Eye.
"It's a huge boost to start the conference season," Kansas Adams said of Friday's victory. "We've got all the confidence in the world now putting up 102 points and playing against a good Springfield team. That should just start us up for the rest of the season."