The Watertown-Mayer boys’ basketball team split a pair of games last week, defeating Litchfield in a non-conference game at home on Tuesday, Dec. 3, before falling to Belle Plaine in the Minnesota River Conference opener on Thursday, Dec. 5
The Royals used a strong defensive effort on Tuesday to beat Litchfield, 46-40. However, against Belle Plaine, poor first-half shooting for the Royals combined with a large number of second-chance points for the Tigers helped Belle Plaine emerge with a 73-54 win.
Entering play this week, the Royals were 2-3 overall. They hosted Norwood Young America in a Minnesota River Conference game on Tuesday, and will return to the court Friday, Dec. 13, for a 7:30 p.m. game at LeSueur-Henderson. The Royals also play Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. at Mound Westonka.
Royals 46, Litchfield 40
A strong defensive effort, particularly in the early stages of the second half, keyed the Royals in a 46-40 win over the Dragons.
After a back-and-forth first half ended with the Royals nursing a 22-17 lead, a 16-2 run to open the second half seemingly put the game away for the Royals. Watertown-Mayer used the run to take a 38-19 lead with about 8 minutes remaining.
“Our defense in that stretch was terrific,” Watertown-Mayer coach Bob Hennen said. “Unfortunately, we should have had an even bigger lead, as we missed a lot of easy shots.”
Those misses helped Litchfield climb back in the game, and the Dragons even whittled the lead to as few as three points with just over a minute left to play. However, a big three-point play for Hunter Hulley and a layup for Kurt Klitzke finally put the game out of reach.
“It was nice to get a win,” Hennen said. “Litch is never easy to beat. We played better defense in this game.”
Hulley led the Royals with 13 points and Klitzke added 12. Gabe Crowder finished with seven points and Trae Berhow had six.
Belle Plaine 73, Royals 54
A couple of early threes from Brett Johnson and another from Ryne Alger had the Royals in the game early, but a couple of late runs allowed Belle Plaine to take a 10-point halftime lead, a lead the Tigers continue to build on in the second half of an eventual 73-54 win.
A 9-2 run for Belle Plaine broke a 12-12 tie and opened things up a bit for the Tigers in the first half. The Royals closed back to within three, but another run padded the Tigers’ cushion at halftime.
“We shot 4-for-19 from three in the first half,” Hennen said. “We got outrebounded by nine. We were lucky to be only down by 10. We just did not sustain our early energy and gave them too many second chance points.”
The Royals opened the second half with some good possessions offensively, but continued to struggle on the glass, preventing the Royals from making a serious run at the Tigers. Belle Plaine maintained its double digit lead the entire half.
“Our shooting stayed cold, we missed a bunch of free throws, and just had no consistent energy all night,” Hennen said.
Hulley finished with 12 points and six rebounds to lead the Royals. Johnson added 12 points as well, and Jesse Bushman had seven. Alger had five points and a team-high six assists.
“Belle Plaine is a very good team with solid inside and outside play,” Hennen said. “We just have to keep getting better. We have a lot of games left and we will get better. The hard part is surviving the tough times that we have to overcome to reach our potential.”