Royals top Crusaders in 55-52 battle

The Watertown-Mayer boys’ basketball team hosted Mayer Lutheran last Friday night, Feb. 14 and came up with a huge 55-52 win over the conference-dominating Crusaders, knocking LHS to 11-2 in the Minnesota River Conference. With the win, the Royals improved to 7-6 in the MRC, snapped the Crusaders seven-game win streak, and extended their own winning to five straight games.

“Great win for us,” WMHS head coach Bob Hennen said. “Mayer Lutheran is so good defensively and big and athletic. They put good pressure on you all the time.”

The Royals were first on the board, but play went back and forth in the first half before Mayer Lutheran pulled out a small lead for a 30-26 halftime score.

“We only hit one three-pointer and their size hurt us at the end of the half,” Hennen said. “We played an okay first half, but I thought we were lucky to be only down four.”

The Royals came out the gate in the second half with a 9-2 run, taking a 35-32 lead. Eventually, Watertown-Mayer was able to open an eight-point 52-44 lead over the Crusaders. The Royals were forced to a zone defense because of Mayer Lutheran’s size, Hennen said. That new zone defense shut down the Crusaders’ offense inside and forced LHS into outside shots, which they were unwilling to take down the stretch.

“(Nick) Parker, (Brett) Johnson, and (Hunter) Hulley did a terrific job taking their main play away at the end of the game,” Hennen said.

Tied at 52-52 near the end of the game, freshman Trae Berhow hit a free throw, followed by a layup by senior Luke Sandquist to give the Royals a three-point lead with 15 seconds to play.

The Crusaders were unable to make things happen at the end of the game, missing a tying three-point shot  and having the inbounds pass stolen by junior Ryne Alger, who held the ball as time ran out and the Royals would win it 55-52.

“Great win, keeps the streak going,” Hennen said. “Proud of the guys for battling. Did not hang out heads after giving up the lead.”

He said the Royals were solid throughout the game on the Crusaders’ pressure.

“We had a few bad stretches, but our defense kept us in the game and we made a few big plays at the end to win,” he said.

Sandquist scored a game-high 15 points and pulled down 17 rebounds with eight blocks to lead the Royals to victory. Alger posted 10 points, followed by Parker (10), senior Kurt Klitzke (8), and Berhow (7). Berhow added five rebounds and four blocks to the WMHS defensive effort, while Alger had five boards and also added seven offensive assists.

For Mayer Lutheran, senior Anthony Gruenhagen and junior Taylor Ottersatter led the way with 11 and 10 points, respectively, followed by seniors Chad Anenson, Joel Burfeind, and Mason Diedrick, who each netted eight.

Earlier in the week, Mayer Lutheran played another close game, this time winning 58-55 over LeSueur-Henderson on Feb. 11. Trailing 30-28 at halftime, the Crusaders narrowly outscored the Giants 30-25 in the second half on their way to a closely contested 58-55 game.

Gruenhagen led the charge with 22 points, followed by sophomore Sam Schlueter at 14 points. No other Crusader would score more than six.

Both the Crusaders and the Royals wrap up the regular season this week.