By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
The battle of the co-defending Mississippi 8 Conference champions took place Jan. 18 at Rogers High School and the St. Michael-Albertville boys’ basketball team got early bragging rights after a 62-60 victory.
With one team getting one senior back from injury, another team was missing another. STMA’s Justin McLain played in his second game since returning from a foot injury and scored eight points. Sam Spilles suffered an ankle injury in practice earlier in the week and the Royals were without their senior captain and his 12.3 points per game.
“He’s our second leading scorer and rebounder,” said Rogers head coach Joe Belka. “He does a lot of little things for us. We certainly were missing him, but we didn’t use that as an excuse.”
With both teams finishing 10-2 and tied for the conference title a year ago, STMA head coach Tim Anfenson said it was a big early game as both teams got their conference schedule underway.
“There was a good crowd and it was an exciting game,” Anfenson said. “It was absolutely nice to pick up a win on their court.”
Senior guard Cole Krutzig played a key role in the win. Krutzig picked up a double-double, scoring 13 points and adding 12 rebounds.
“Cole had a really nice game,” Anfenson said. “To get 12 rebounds from your point guard is saying something.”
Senior Erik Johnson just missed a double-double of his own. He finished with 11 rebounds and nine points. Sophomore Jackson Greenwaldt scored 15 points and sophomore Trevor Rothstein added 11.
The Royals were able to stay close at the free throw line. They hit on 18 of 24 free throw attempts, while the Knights were only 7 of 17 from the line. Senior Cullen Loughlin scored nine of his 13 points from the charity stripe. Sophomore Cole Murray had a game-high 16 points and senior Ryan Gelle had 13 points and seven rebounds for the Royals.
Rogers had two chances late in the game to either tie or take the lead. With 15 seconds left and the score 62-60, the Royals missed a close in chance. Seconds later, they had a chance from with .6 seconds on the clock. A desperation three-point shot from half court just misfired.
“We played very well and competed,” Belka said. “We gave ourselves an opportunity at the end of the game. That’s all one can ask for. Give St. Michael credit, they hit the big shots when they needed and we came up a bit short. It was a well played high school basketball game.”
The win snapped a mini two-game winning streak after the Royals (5-9 overall, 0-1 M8) defeated both Irondale and Becker. The Royals defeated the Bulldogs 75-51 on Jan. 15. Spilles led the Royals with 21 points. Gelle finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
The Royals are next in action at 7:15 p.m. Thursday night at Cambridge-Isanti.
STMA was coming off their worst loss of the season in an 80-44 defeat Jan. 15 at Edina. Trailing only 33-28 at the half to Edina and Division-I standouts Graham Woodward and Reggie Lynch, the Knights were thinking upset.
Things would go south in a hurry in the second half. In a span of one minute, Edina went on a 12-0 run and both Lynch – a 6-foot-9 Illinois State recruit – and Woodward – a supreme shooting guard who is headed to Penn State, did most the damage.
Woodward scored 25 points and Lynch added 21 in the win. Greenwaldt scored 14 points for the Knights.
“They are a really good team,” Anfenson said. “I was really thrilled with our first half. Things kind of fell apart real fast in the second half. Edina’s coach said after the game that things were a lot closer than the score indicated. It was a good chance though for our kids to see what Division-I talent is all about.”
The Knights (8-7, 1-0) return home at 7:15 p.m. Friday to host Buffalo.