By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
Through 11 games, the St. Michael-Albertville boys’ basketball team ranks fourth out of 64 Class 4A teams for least points allowed per game heading into last Tuesday’s showdown against Moorhead.
Only Osseo’s (53.5 points per game), St. Francis (54.1) and Prior Lake (55.3) rank better than STMA’s 55.5 average.
While defense hasn’t been an issue – scoring at times has. The Knights rank 24th out of 64 in overall team scoring with 649 points (59 ppg). But only six of the 39 teams below STMA in offense have played at least 10 games. The Knights were 6-5 overall heading into Tuesday’s showdown with the Spuds (results unavailable).
In a makeup game that was played on Jan. 3 at Bemidji, STMA had its usual sound defensive effort and was able to get 22 points from sophomore Jackson Greenwaldt and 14 from senior Brian Ferry in a 71-46 blowout of the Lumberjacks.
Two nights later, the Knights returned home to take on the high scoring Eagan Wildcats of the South Suburban Conference. Eagan came into the contest scoring 71.5 points per game in its 4-2 start to the season. The Wildcats were led by the SSC leading scorer Michael Gorder, who was averaging 23.1 points per game.
While Eagan ended up handing STMA its third home loss of the season, head coach Tim Anfenson said he was satisfied with his team’s overall effort in a 58-50 loss.
“We gave up 58 against a team that’s averaging 71. That’s pretty dang good,” Anfenson said. “The turnovers and the missed plays on offense is what really hurt our defense in this loss.”
For most the first half, the Knights were able to hold Gorder and the Eagan offense in check. With several lead changes over the course of the game, neither team could pull away. A Gorder layup with time expiring gave the Wildcats a slim 31-29 halftime edge.
“It was weird, we’re a team that tends to go on big runs,” said Eagan head coach Matt Vollum. “Hat’s off to St. Michael for killing those runs. We didn’t know too much about them coming in and as the game went on we started jumping a little bit more, trapping a little bit more and taking advantage of our athleticism.”
Two of STMA’s more athletic players were responsible for trying to shutdown Gorder. Seniors Cole Krutzig and Erik Johnson were in the face of Eagan’s 6-foot-5 lanky guard for most the contest. Johnson had two highlight-reel blocked shots to go with his nine rebounds, seven points and four assists. Krutzig had seven points, five rebounds and five steals.
“We knew we had to pick up the intensity because they had a couple good players,” said Krutzig, who helped hold Gorder to 21 points – two below his season average. “I thought we played well as a team. Everybody was helping each other.”
The Knights started the second half hitting three straight field goals and building their biggest lead of the game at 35-31. Eagan punched back with a mini-run of its own and a Jack Kelm 3-point shot gave them back the lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
With the Knights failing to score on four consecutive possessions, the Wildcats extended their lead to 58-50 and iced the game away with its solid defensive play down the stretch.
“Towards the end we had a couple open shots and we didn’t knock them down,” Krutzig said. “We had a couple turnovers too. If we make those plays, I think we would have come out with a win in this one.”
“Eagan’s a good basketball team,” Anfenson said. “They had just taken Lakeville North (rated No. 9 in Class 4A) to overtime. This is a tough team to play against. They are 6-foot-3 across the board and athletic. That was a problem.”
STMA’s next game is Friday night at 7:15 p.m. when they host Princeton.