Royal boys get back in win column

The Watertown-Mayer boys’ basketball team went 1-1 last week, opening the week with a 54-50 road loss to Jordan in Minnesota River Conference play on Friday, Dec. 14, but rebounding with a 78-67 non-conference home win over Mound-Westonka on Saturday, Dec. 15.

Against an undefeated Jordan team to start the week, a strong close to the first half had the Royals in front, 27-24 at halftime. However, poor long-range shooting for the Royals ultimately was a big factor in starting the season 0-1 in the MRC.

In a back-and-forth first half, Jordan jumped out to a 19-12 lead, but Watertown-Mayer stormed back before halftime. A 15-5 run gave the Royals the halftime advantage, but Watertown-Mayer coach Bob Hennen felt the lead could have been even bigger if not for a few late shots for Jordan.

The Royals continued to maintain the lead through the first six minutes of the second half, leading 35-30 at that time. Jordan took control with a 15-2 run to take an 8-point lead, but the Royals fought back once again. This time, the Royals closed to within 52-50, and had the ball with about a minute left. However, the Royals missed their opportunity to tie the game, and Jordan sealed the game at the free throw line on the other end.

“We really let one slip away,” Hennen said. “Jordan is undefeated, but I thought we really had a chance to take control early in the second half, and we did not.”

The Royals were led offensively by Jacob Wandersee, who had 16 of his team-high 21 points in the first half. Luke Sandquist also had a monster effort with 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, and Mark Sandquist chipped in with eight rebounds. However, the Royals were plagued by 2-for-17 shooting from 3-point range.

“That really hurt us,” Hennen said. “We got a lot of good looks.”

Later in the week, the Royals combined with the girls’ team to sweep Mound-Wesonka in a pair of home games on Saturday evening. The Royals led by the slimmest of margins, 38-37, at halftime, before pulling away a bit in the second half for the 78-67 win.

In a first half in which the lead changed hands numerous times, Hennen said he was pleased with his team’s offensive production. However, defense was a concern.

“We gave up too many easy looks and had some assignment breakdowns,” he said. “It seemed like we would have a mistake that would prevent us from putting on a bigger run.

The Royals began to turn things around in the second half, however, jumping out to a 62-50 lead, but Mound-Westonka took advantage of a few turnovers and poor shot selection from the Royals to put together an 11-0 run and close to 62-61. However, out of a timeout, Hunter Hulley and Barna Berenyi each hit a big 3-pointer to push the lead back to seven points.

“After that, we did a good job of breaking the press and getting layups,” Hennen said.

The Royals were led by 22 points and 10 rebounds from Sandquist and 22 points from Wandersee. Hulley added 18 points, and Berenyi also emerged with his finest game of the season, an all-around strong effort that included 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Mark Sandquist chipped in with 10 rebounds.

“It was a good win for us,” Hennen said. “We needed it after three losses. We’re getting better each game, but we still have to keep working on playing better defense and taking care of the ball.”

The Royals, now 2-3 on the season, will play in the Kimball Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 20, and Saturday, Dec. 22.