Halfway through the first rotation of Minnesota River Conference teams, the Mayer Lutheran boys’ basketball team is looking sharp after the team’s fourth MRC win of the season last week against Norwood Young America. The Crusaders currently lead the MRC with an undefeated 4-0 record.
Defeating NYA 67-47 at home on Dec. 17, the two teams were close at halftime, with Mayer Lutheran leading 30-25. Outscoring the Raiders 37-22 in the second half, the Crusaders easily picked up the 20-point victory.
Senior Anthony Gruenhagen led the Mayer Lutheran offense with 16 points, followed closely by junior Taylor Otterstatter (13), senior Joe Zittergruen (11), and sophomore Sam Schlueter (10). Also contributing points for LHS were seniors Mason Diedrick (6) and Chad Anenson (6), senior Cole Buttenhoff (2), junior Kyle Gillund (2), and senior Jack Mocol (1). The team shot at 50 percent for the game.
LHS head coach Dan Perrel said the highlight of the game was when 6-foot-4 senior forward Joe Zittergruen came off the bench to play a spectacular game.
“He shot well, he played superb defense and he was poised under pressure,” Perrel said.
On defense, the Crusaders pulled down 45 rebounds to NYA’s 20. Mayer Lutheran had 17 offensive rebounds, and Gruenhagen led the defense with 10 total rebounds.
The Crusaders headed to Maple Lake for the weekend, first meeting Foley in the opening game of the tournament on Thursday evening. Winning 65-41, the game didn’t look so open at halftime, when LHS led by one point in a 28-27 game. Mayer Lutheran held Foley to just 17 second-half points, eight of which came from free throws and the other nine from the field.
Nearly half of Foley’s points came on free throws, making 20 of 33 attempts. Perrel said that the team came into the game both tired and distracted.
“Our team members came into this game having just completed two days of final exams and knowing that a third day awaited them,” he said. “Very much to the credit of seniors Matt Huinker, Cole Buttenhoff, and Joel Burfeind, they pulled the team onto their backs and turned a very weak performing first half into an energetic and much more disciplined second half.”
Gruenhagen (13), Diedrick (12), Buttenhoff (11), and Schlueter (10) led the Mayer Lutheran offense, while Mocol (4), senior Mitch Krause (4), Zittergruen (3), Joel Burfeind (3), senior Matt Huinker (2), senior Chase Anderson (2), and Otterstatter (1) also contributed to the Mayer Lutheran effort. Despite multiple players in double digit scoring, the Crusaders made just two three-point shots during the entire game, according to Perrel. In two-point range, the Crusaders took a season-high 52 shots and shot 46 percent overall.
On defense, the Crusaders pulled down 13 more rebounds than Foley, for 35 total boards. Mayer Lutheran also snagged 19 steals from the hands of Foley players, led by Burfeind (6) and Gruenhagen (4). The LHS defense also caused 30 turnovers.
With the NYA and Foley wins, the Crusaders had built up an eight-game win streak that would be snapped Friday night against Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity in a 66-58 loss.
Trailing 34-28 at halftime, the Crusaders were narrowly outscored 32-30 in the second half, but it was enough for LP/HT to take the game.
Burfeind was the only Crusader to score in double digits with 10 points. Scoring was balanced across the team with points from Zittergruen (9), Schlueter (8), senior Chad Anenson (8), Diedrick (7), Krause (5), Gruenhagen (4), Buttenhoff (3), Otterstatter (2), and Huinker (2).
The Crusaders are back in action on Jan. 7 in their next conference game at LeSueur-Henderson. They will host Watertown-Mayer Jan. 10.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com