By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
The St. Michael-Albertville boys’ basketball team has turned green — green as in — Greenwaldt.
Sophomore guard Jackson Greenwaldt leads the Knights in scoring, averaging 14.8 points per game. On Feb. 1, he scored a career-high 30 points in a key 63-46 win over Mississippi 8 rival Big Lake.
The Hornets came in as the highest scoring team in the Mississippi 8, averaging a league best 70.8 points per game. STMA’s defense — averaging a conference low 56.8 points per game – was up for the test.
Big Lake jumped to an early advantage. Trailing by scores of 12-9 and 17-11, STMA turned to an unlikely scoring hero to get them out of its funk. Senior guard Justin McLain came off the bench and converted three consecutive 3-point shots, giving the Knights a 24-23 lead.
“Those were big time points,” said STMA head coach Tim Anfenson. “He was our leading scorer a few years ago in our ninth and 10th grade program. He didn’t come out last year and missed half of this year with an injury. He’s trying to get his conditioning, but he can shoot. He gets hot and you have to feed him until he starts missing.”
McLain scored a season-high 11 points in the first half that helped build a 32-25 halftime advantage.
“I thought our team had a lot more energy than usual and that was easy to feed off of,” McLain said. “Other teams just sync on Jackson and I was left wide open.”
With the Knights frustrating Big Lake all game on the defensive side of the ball, Greenwaldt took the game into his own hands on the offensive side of things in the final half of play.
He scored 19 of his 30 points in the second half. It included a near perfect night shooting 10-of-11 from the field and he hit on 3-of-6 from three.
“I just started taking some shots and they were falling,” Greenwaldt said. “Coach wanted to get the ball in my hands and I just kept shooting. It felt good. Our defense stepped up too, which was the key.”
The Knights held Big Lake 24 points under its season average. Anfenson said he saw a complete team effort, which included a game without senior forward Erik Johnson, who was serving a suspension for two technical fouls he picked up in a 63-40 win Jan. 29 against Monticello.
“In the second half against Monticello, we really saw the team come together and we saw that same focus in our effort against Big Lake,” Anfenson said. “Big Lake has a good offensive team and defensively we had a good night and I thought (sophomore) Josh Tracy defended well in Erik’s place.”
Senior’s Cole Krutzig and Brian Ferry added 10 and eight points, respectively. Sophomore Trevor Rothstein finished with nine points, five rebounds and six assists. But it was Greenwaldt 22 points that again led the team in scoring.
McLain said he and the rest of his fellow seniors have no problem taking a back seat to a sophomore when it comes to scoring.
“I don’t look at it any differently,” McLain said. “He’s just a teammate out there competing with all of us. We know he’s hot so we give him the ball.”
Likewise, Greenwaldt said he doesn’t mind sharing the wealth either.
“It was awesome. I was kicking it ahead to him, getting some assists. It felt good to get some assists instead of just points,” Greenwaldt smirked, on seeing McLain score 11 key points against Big Lake.
The Knights have a pair of road games this week. Thursday at 7:15 p.m. they are at Cambridge-Isanti. Saturday at 2 p.m. they are at East Ridge.