The Watertown-Mayer boys’ basketball team remained at .500 (9-9) last week after splitting a pair of Minnesota River Conference games.
The Royals opened the week with a frustrating 81-79 overtime loss at Belle Plaine. However, the Royals routed Norwood Young America later in the week, 67-36.
Belle Plaine 81, Royals 79
An 11-2 run late in regulation gave the Royals a five-point lead late, but Watertown-Mayer couldn’t quite hang on and ended up falling to the Tigers in overtime.
After a 9-0 run for Belle Plaine erased a 59-54 lead for the Royals and gave the Tigers a 63-59 lead, the Royals’ 11-2 run turned the tables and put Watertown-Mayer back in front, 70-65, as time wound down.
Belle Plaine scored on each of its next two possessions to tie the game with about 55 seconds left, but on the next possession, Watertown-Mayer held the ball until Hunter Hulley was fouled with 22 seconds left. He made both free throws to give the Royals a 72-70 lead.
Belle Plaine responded with a quick score, giving Watertown-Mayer one last chance in regulation to win it. Ryne Alger and Brett Johnson both attacked the basket, but came up empty.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get a call when they went to the hoop,” Watertown-Mayer coach Bob Hennen said.
Belle Plaine took a quick five-point lead in overtime about halfway through the 4-minute extra period, but Hulley responded with a layup and Johnson and Alger each hit one free throw on the next two possessions to cut the lead back down to one.
Belle Plaine proceeded to make one free throw on its next possession, but Johnson converted on a layup for the Royals to tie the game. That’s when Watertown-Mayer stole the ball with about 15 seconds left and looked to get to the basket in transition. However, the Royals were able to convert or draw a foul, and Belle Plaine was able to score in transition with four seconds left.
Watertown-Mayer used a timeout and got off a good shot at the buzzer, but couldn’t avoid the heartbreaking loss.
“It was a tough loss,” Hennen said. “We coach the kids to attack the hoop at the end of the game. I thought we did, and I thought calls could have been made.”
Still, Hennen said there were plenty of other things that could have made a difference in the game as well.
“There are a lot of little things that we would like to have back throughout the game,” he said. “We had chances to get a big stop and we just did not do it at times.”
Watertown-Mayer raced out to a nine-point lead early, going ahead 19-10. However, some key 3-point shooting from Belle Plaine allowed the Tigers to take a lead of their own, and Belle Plaine went into the locker room at halftime with a 37-36 lead.
Hulley led Watertown-Mayer with 22 points, including 16 in the second half and overtime. He also finished with six assists.
“He really attacked the basket and hit some big threes and free throws for us,” Hennen said.
Luke Sandquist added 11 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, and Nick Parker had 13 points, including 10 in the first half. Alger had eight points and seven assists, Klitzke had nine points, four rebounds and four assists and Johnson had six points and six rebounds while playing solid defense on Belle Plaine’s leading scorer. Jack Nolan also scored two points and collected four rebounds off the bench, doing a nice job in place of Sandquist after he picked up two early fouls.
Royals 67, NYA 36
After a 19-point loss to the Raiders the first time around, Watertown-Mayer turned the tables in dramatic fashion for a blowout win.
NYA’s 3-point barrage early was a big factor in their win earlier this season, and Hennen said stopping that was a big key this time. Sandquist also missed that first matchup due to injury.
“Last time they beat us pretty good as they shot really well and made 17 threes,” Hennen said. “We knew we had to defend better this time. It helped having Luke back as he’s a protector at the rim, but we have improved on the perimeter as well.”
After a slow start for both teams, Watertown-Mayer used an early 9-0 run to pull ahead early, and never relinquished the lead. Threes from Parker and Klitzke helped spark the run. As the game wore on, defense was a key in helping the Royals continue to pull away. Watertown-Mayer led 30-16 at halftime.
“We took away easy looks from the outside and controlled the boards,” Hennen said.
Sandquist finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Trae Berhow had 11 points, Klitzke and Hulley each had eight points and four rebounds, and Parker had 10 points.
“We just played really solid basketball,” Hennen said. “I thought we were patient in the half court, but also pushed the ball to get easy shots. It was a good win. We’re starting to play better and more consistent.
The Royals game on Tuesday against Minneapolis Edison was postponed because of the weather, and has been rescheduled for Feb. 10.
The Royals will return to action Thursday, Jan. 30, when they host LeSueur-Henderson at 7:30 p.m. They’ll also play on Monday, Feb. 3, when they host Tri City United at 7:30 p.m.