During any given sports season, a team can be quickly plagued with illness and injury. So far this year, the Mayer Lutheran boys’ basketball team had been lucky, cruising through the season with minimal health issues.
But last week proved difficult for the LHS boys, as illness and injury took over, causing players to miss games and the Crusaders to lose their final two games of the regular season to Holy Family Catholic and No. 9 (1A) Heritage Christian Academy.
H. Family 61, Mayer L. 44
The Crusaders held on in the first half of their Feb. 25 game at Holy Family, even taking the lead at one point. But the Fire would capitalize on their height advantage, including 6-foot-9 sophomore Justin Dahl, to hold a 34-28 halftime lead.
The Fire defense was even more oppressive in the second half, holding Mayer Lutheran to just 16 points.
Junior Anthony Gruenhagen was the only Crusader to score double digits, netting 13 points for LHS. In contrast, the Fire had three double-digit players, including Joe Hanel (18), Dahl (12), and Jack Mugford (11).
Also scoring for Mayer Lutheran were junior Chad Anenson (9), junior Joel Burfeind (7), senior Tanner Luebke (6), freshman Sam Schlueter (5), and sophomore Taylor Otterstatter (4).
LHS was missing three varsity regulars against the Fire, along with two more athletes battling illness.
“This was a very physical game at the very moment that we didn’t need a physical game due to illness,” head coach Dan Perrel said. “Holy Family looks to be hitting their stride at the right moment as we all head into the playoffs.”
To top things off, both Anenson and Gruenhagen were injured during the game; Anenson with a sprained ankle, Gruenhagen with an elbow injury.
Heritage 54, Mayer L. 43
In their final game of the regular season, the Crusaders traveled to Brooklyn Park to take on the No. 9 (1A) Heritage Christian Academy Eagles. Leading by one point at halftime, 22-21, the Eagles outscored LHS 32-22 in the second half to win the game.
With multiple players operating at 50 percent, Perrel said junior varsity regulars Joe Zittergruen and Kyle Gillund stepped up to the varsity level and helped stop the Eagles from running away with the game. Perrel credits the Crusaders continued solid defense and rebounding skills for the close score.
Luebke led the Crusaders with 16 points, the only team member in double digits. Also scoring for LHS were Phil Burfeind (7), Diedrick (5), Zittergruen (4), Schlueter (4), Buttenhoff (3), Joel Burfeind (2), and Gillund (2).
The Crusaders were seeded fourth for the Section 5AA – South playoffs and will host No. 5 Norwood Young America this Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m. The winner will face the victor of No. 1 South Jordan/No. 8 South Providence Academy on Saturday at Dassel-Cokato High School.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]