NEW ULM - Clinging to a two-point lead with four minutes left, Minnesota Valley Lutheran turned to its defense to ignite its slumping offense.
With MVL leading 61-59 and in a prolonged offensive drought, two steals led to transition buckets by Josh Wong and Nick Dewanz to help the Chargers pull away and defeat New Ulm Cathedral 80-69.
The Chargers came out of the gates red hot, scoring inside with ease to go ahead 16-2.
"The beginning of the game has been a battle for us all year," said Cathedral coach Alan Woitas. "MVL came out with a lot of intensity, so credit to those kids."
MVL maintained a double-digit lead throughout the first half, but Cathedral's Isaiah Osborne nailed a 40-foot 3-pointer to pull the game to 45-35 at halftime.
"That was a big momentum boost going into half," Woitas said. "Being down 10 instead of 13 going into half is big and it gave our kids some energy."
The momentum gained by Osborne's shot carried over into the second half, which saw MVL struggle offensively and Cathedral chip away at the deficit.
Cathedral threw a zone at the Chargers, and it slowed down the offensive attack.
"We didn't attack it the way we wanted to," said MVL coach Craig Morgan. "We recognized what it was, we just didn't attack it."
The charge from the Greyhounds was boosted by Jack Schwartz. Schwartz scored on consecutive possessions, including a big 3-pointer to cut the lead to 59-57.
"We did a nice job rebounding [in the second half] and held them to just one shot," Woitas said. "We were able to attack the hoop and knock down some open shots."
That was as close as Cathedral got, as Josh Wong forced the two steals that led to easy transition buckets.
"[Wong] has quick feet, quick hands and a good mind," Morgan said. "But what he did was he played within himself."
The two layups and free throws down the stretch gave the Chargers their ninth conference win.
"Cathedral took advantage of our turnovers and made some key shots," Morgan said. "But the guys regrouped, made a couple of key baskets and that helped out."
Dewanz led MVL with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Jacob Hoffman also gave the Chargers a spark with 20 points.
Collin Helget led Cathedral with 22 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Jacob Gangelhoff added 17, Michael Skillings had 11 and Schwartz finished with 10 points.
MVL (10-13, 9-6 Tomahawk) and will host Wabasso on Monday. Cathedral (7-16, 3-12) will host Springfield on Monday.