By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
The St. Michael-Albertville boys’ basketball team started off slow in a 69-35 loss to Blake. However, a solid second half showing against the Bears gave them the confidence they needed and the Knights salvaged a split at last weekend’s Granite City Holiday Classic with a 60-52 win over Rocori at St. Cloud Apollo.
Last weekend’s Breakdown Classic featured some big-time teams with some big-time talent. Osseo’s Bridgeport Tusler and his defending Class 4A champion Orioles were part of the 12-team field. Also part of the tourney was No. 2 ranked Apple Valley – minus injured-star Tyus Jones, who was out with a back inury.
The Knights opened play last Friday afternoon against Class 3A’s, No. 4 ranked Blake Bears. The Knights came out last Friday looking like a team that was intimidated. STMA trailed in the first half by as many as 22 points. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from sophomore guard Jackson Greenwaldt cut the Blake lead to 40-21 at half.
“Early in the game we were missing shots and played a bit nervous. Their defense was pretty tight and we weren’t handling it very well,” said STMA senior Erik Johnson, who was one of the few early bright spots scoring six first-half points. He would later finish with 11. “In the second half we just came out and played harder. Guys were hustling and we just wanted to win.”
The Knights had chances to close the double-figure lead to single digits in the second half, but Blake junior guard John Veil had other ideas.
Veil hit a string of four consecutive 3-pointers to widen Blake’s lead and the Knights could never get back into the game after that.
“He answered and that’s what good point guards do,” said head coach Tim Anfenson. “He hurt us in the first half with the dribble and hit some long three’s too. We didn’t have an edge coming out, but Blake is a good team. We came out in the second half and hit some baskets and got to the free throw line.”
Greenwaldt led STMA with 17 points. Veil finished with a game-high 22 for Blake.
“It was nice to see us compete in the second half,” Anfenson said. “If we get some consistency with our kids, I wouldn’t mind playing Blake again at the end of the year.”
The Knights carried their momentum into Saturday’s game against Rocori storming out to a 30-19 halftime advantage.
Trevor Rothstein enjoyed his best shooting night of his young varsity career. The sophomore went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and was good on 1-of-2 from the 3-point line. He led the Knights with 13 points.
Rocori’s Mac Mueller, Jonah Eisenschenk and Brad Fabel kept the Spartans alive. Mueller was 8-of-9 from the field and scored 18 points. Eisenschenk had 15 points and nine rebounds and Fabel finished with 12. But timely baskets from Greenwaldt (12 points) and senior’s Cole Krutzig, Brian Ferry and Johnson, each finishing with nine points for the game, helped secure the lead.
“I like coming up here for these holiday tournaments,” Johnson said. “We get one game, then get some down time and hang out with the guys and come back the next day and do it again.”
The Knights (5-4 overall) are at home this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. versus Eagan.