By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
A 48-41 win Feb. 7 over Cambridge-Isanti has the St. Michael-Albertville boys’ basketball team in contention for the top spot in the Mississippi 8.
As of Monday, the Knights (4-1) came into Tuesday night’s showdown with Rogers (results next week) a game behind Buffalo (5-0) in the conference standings. The two teams will square off at 7:15 p.m. this Friday night at Buffalo.
“Absolutely,” said STMA head coach Tim Anfenson, on the team’s chances of winning a conference title. “But the key thing really for our team is improving our consistency. The past couple games we’ve been real inconsistent.”
The Knights struggled early in the game in their win last Thursday at Isanti. Missed shots and turnovers kept both teams from finding points and late in the first half, both teams were sitting under 10 points.
“It was not pretty to watch,” Anfenson said. “We had a really rough start and we were stuck on seven points with about five minutes to go in the half. Luckily, we settled down and put together a solid second half.”
Led by sophomore Jackson Greenwaldt’s 18 points, the Knights turned a 19-17 halftime deficit into a 31-point second half – lifting STMA to its third straight conference victory.
Junior guard Craig Johnson had nine points and senior guard Justin McLain finished with seven.
The Knights’ three-game win streak came to an end two nights later in a 65-55 road defeat to East Ridge. The Raptors came into the contest with an overall record of 15-4.
“They are a good team,” Anfenson said. “They came into the year ranked No. 10. We came out the first 5-6 minutes and played well. Then we got in a scoring funk again.”
Ryan Keenan and Conrad Sexe – both 6-foot-8 centers for the Raptors – created matchup problems for the undersized Knights.
Keenan scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Sexe scored eight points and had six rebounds. The Knights were playing without senior forward Erik Johnson, who sprained his ankle prior to the contest during warm-ups.
Trailing by seven at halftime, the Knights closed the gap to five points. With 90 seconds to play in regulation, STMA had the ball with a chance to cut the lead to a one possession game. A costly miscue ended any hopes for a comeback.
“We had the ball and their defender knocked the ball off our guy’s leg and that pretty much ended the rally,” Anfenson said.
Greenwaldt was held to 12 points and senior’s Brian Ferry, Mitch Coulson and sophomore Trevor Rothstein each finished with eight. Brian Ishola led East Ridge with 15 points.
STMA’s rematch with both Rogers and Buffalo begins the second swing of games with conference foes.
“We’re very happy to go through the first round of games in the conference with a 4-1 record,” Anfenson said. “Our goal is to keep in reach with Buffalo and let them know we’re there.”