The Watertown-Mayer boys’ basketball team tipped off its season last Friday, Nov. 22, with a 66-61 win on the road over Rockford.
Senior Hunter Hulley led the Royals with 18 points 10 rebounds, while a quartet of Royals chipped in with nine points each. Brett Johnson, Ryne Alger, Jack Nolan and Trae Berhow each had nine points, with Nolan adding seven rebounds and Berhow adding five.
“It was a big section win,” Watertown-Mayer coach Bob Hennen said. “Even bigger due to the fact we did not have Luke (Sandquist) or Gabe (Crowder) playing, and most of the guys were playing their first varsity game. It should give us some confidence.”
Hennen said it was apparent early on that his young team was likely dealing with some nerves, especially as Rockford jumped out to a 6-0 lead. However, a 27-6 run for the Royals, keyed by Hulley, who scored 15 of his 18 before halftime, put the Royals in control early.
“I could tell there were some nerves early and the pace might have caught some by surprise, but once we settled down, we did fine,” Hennen said. “We have a lot to work on, but it’s always nice to start with a win, especially against a good team on the road.”
Seven different players ended up scoring for the Royals in the first half alone. Hennen said Berhow, Nick Parker, Zack Eliason and Jesse Bushman, in particular, gave his team strong minutes off the bench to help the Royals pull out to a nine-point lead, 37-28 at halftime.
“Overall, we just started to let the game come to us and move more on offense,” Hennen said of his team rebounding after the slow start.
Early threes from Berhow and Johnson in the second half helped push the Royals lead back into double digits — it was as big as 14 points in the first half — but Rockford slowly clawed its way back into the game thanks to some Watertown-Mayer turnovers and what Hennen described as poor transition defense. Rockford pulled to within two points with under 2 minutes left to play, but a big 3-pointer from Alger helped keep the Rockets at bay. Rockford again cut the deficit to 2 points, but after taking nearly a minute off the clock on its next possession, Watertown-Mayer got two free throws from Johnson to help seal the game.
Kurt Klitzke added seven points and seven rebounds for the Royals, who also got five assists from Alger and four from Bushman. As a team, the Royals shot 49 percent from the field (24-for-49) and hit 4 of 10 3-pointers. The Royals hit 14 of 23 free throws, and benefitted from the fact that Rockford shot just 7-for-18 from the foul line.
Rockford shot 43.9 percent from the field and hit 4 of 13 shots from behind the arc. The Rockets were led by 21 points from Brock Deering and 10 from Thomas Traen.
The Royals were also in action Tuesday night, when they hosted Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted. They’ll return to the court at 3 p.m. at Delano on Saturday, Nov. 30, and also host Litchfield at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]