by Bruce Strand
Spring Lake Park sank a dozen three-point shots to fend off a turnover-plagued Rogers Royals team 77-68 on Friday evening in Rogers.
“We shot the ball well. We out rebounded them,” said Rogers coach Joe Belka. “I told the kids, the difference in the game was we had 22 turnovers and they had 11. And all those 3-point shots.”
Senior forward Robert Ben poured in 27 points for the Panthers (2-0), sinking six three’s.. Senior guard Gary Cook added 21 points and junior guard TC Robinson 13.
Sam Spilles, 6-4 senior forward, sank 22 points and senior guard Cullen Loughlin 19 for the Royals (0-2). Senior guard Luke Pecka added 14.
Rogers, down 28-11 in the first half, wound up taking a 32-31 lead at halftime on a half court 3-point shot by Reed Sagehorn at the buzzer. Loughlin scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half to lead the comeback.
However, the Royals had four straight turnovers to start the second half, fell behind 39-32 and never caught up.
Rogers had a 29-27 rebound edge and shot 51 percent (26-for-51) to SLP’s 44 percent. They made 11 of 14 free throws and the Panthers 11 of 15. Loughlin was 6-for-6 at the line. Rogers was 5-for-13 on three’s.
The Royals, with nobody who had started a high school game before this year, also had turnover problems late in the Anoka game when they lost a six-point lead and fell 58-57.
“Whether it’s due to inexperience or confidence, we are not valuing the basketball enough,” said Belka. “We have to make that a bigger priority in practices and hope it will carry over to games.”
Belka said Ben had favored shooting off the dribble when they scouted him, but he excelled in catch-and-shoot against Rogers. “He knocked down a couple and started feeling it,” said Belka, “even when we had a hand in his face.”
In earlier action, the Rogers boys lost their opener to Anoka 58-57 at home as the Tornadoes’ Torrey Ledin hit a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left and the Royals missed two free shots in the final second.
Rogers rallied from a 30-22 halftime deficit to a seven-point lead with 2:40 left but couldn’t hold on. Anoka applied some pressure, forcing two turnovers that led to key baskets.
Sam Spilles had 14 points and 7 rebounds for Rogers. Cole Murray added 10 points and 7 rebounds, Gunnar Bloom 7 points and 7 assists, and Cullen Loughlin 9 points.
Malcolm Seals scored 12 points and Jordan DeJong 11 for the Tornadoes.
The Royals were next to play at Totino-Grace Tuesday, Dec. 11.