After posting their first loss in nearly a month, the Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team rebounded in a big way, ending Southwest Christian’s seven game win streak with a 65-63 win Saturday night.
“We played great,” Baden Noennig said. “We came out with intensity. This guy (McHayl Diedrick) pumped us up.”
The energy of the high-flying Crusaders was evident from the get-go, as they attacked with an intensity right from the opening tip. Garrett Tjernagel won the tip, which sent Noennig sprinting to the rim for a score less than 5 seconds into the game.
After the opening score, Tjernagel and Cole Hagen utilized quick passing on a give-and-go, allowing Hagen to hit an open three-pointer in the corner. The energy they come into games with has put the opposition behind early, leading the Crusaders to a 9-1 record over the last 10 games.
“[We are doing well because of] the intensity we have been playing with,” Diedrick said.
“We just come out every game better and better,” Noennig added.
But as well as Mayer Lutheran has been playing, Southwest was able to match them in the first half. In the last 8 minutes of the half, the lead changed 12 times as the Crusaders and Stars went shot-for-shot down the stretch.
“They shot pretty well,” said Diedrick
“They were very physical,” said Noennig.
After the Stars tied the game with under a minute to play, Noennig hit a shot from the post to put Mayer Lutheran up 36-34 as the final seconds of the half ticked away.
The break did little to slow down the Crusaders, as they came out of halftime with an exciting scoring burst. An initial basket from the Stars was answered with an 8-0 run that went by in a flurry, forcing a Southwest Christian timeout 3 minutes into play. Diedrick’s reverse layup was followed by steal from Kobey Woolhouse that turned into an easy bucket, a fast break connection from Hagen and Noennig, and finally a dunk from Tjernagel that forced the timeout.
While the Stars were able to draw within two points after the timeout, Mayer Lutheran continued to hammer away on the offensive end. Six different Crusaders scored on a 15-3 run that gave Mayer a 59-45 lead with six minutes remaining.
The run was capped off by a key hustle play from Diedrick. After Hagen was fouled on a three-pointer, the junior sharpshooter had a chance at a four point play. Though he missed the free throw, Diedrick rushed inside to haul in the rebound, quickly putting it back up to put Mayer Lutheran up 14, forcing another Southwest Christian timeout.
“McHayl played awesome,” Noennig said. “He got us jacked up – he just has so much intensity. He had that clutch rebound on that free throw that put us ahead. He just played great.”
The Stars were down, but not out, chipping away at Mayer Lutheran’s lead until they drew within a point with a minute remaining.
While the Crusaders’ offense had stalled in the closing minutes, the defense clamped down to deliver the win. Mayer Lutheran forced several empty possessions for the Stars, including a chance at the game winner as time expired.
“We kept our composure,” Noennig said. “We just had patience and made good passes.”
Three Crusaders reached double figures in the win, as Woolhouse scored 22, Noennig tallied 17 and Hagen knocked down four three-pointers for 12 points.
“Baden stepped up big time,” Diedrick said. “[He] played like a man, not like a 16 year old,” he added with a laugh.
Diedrick scored eight, Tjernagel poured in four and Mitch Johnson added two.
MLHS 66 Belle Plaine 77
A large deficit was too much to handle Feb. 10, as the Crusaders fell 77-66 after trailing 41-24 at the break. The loss was Mayer Lutheran’s first since Jan. 14, snapping an eight-game win streak.
Woolhouse and Noennig’s aggressive play paid off at the free throw line, as the two earned 18 attempts between them. Woolhouse went 8/8 on the way to 25 points and Noennig was 7/10, scoring 20.
Tjernagel also reached double figures with 11. Diedrick scored four, while Matt Menth, Hagen and Johnson each had two.