SIOUX FALLS — After trailing throughout the first half, the Huron Tigers rebounded with a powerful effort in the second half and posted a come-from-behind 52-50 win over the Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots Thursday night at the Lincoln High School Gymnasium.
The win pushes Huron to a record of 7-5 while Lincoln falls to 5-7.
“I tell you it’s hard to win in AA,” said Tiger coach Tim Buddenhagen. “It takes an effort like this every night. I’m proud of the way that the guys took the negative of Tuesday’s loss in Watertown and turned it into a positive here tonight. We played smart and played focused - at least in the second half tonight.”
At the start, it looked like Lincoln was going to run away and hide, as after a Colt McNeil three pointer got the Tigers on the board, the Pats ran off 12 straight points — nine of them from senior guard Tate Schafer — and took a 9-point lead three minutes into the game.
“We kind of came out with a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look tonight to start,” Buddenhagen said. “It took us a bit to begin to break down their press.”
But Huron responded, as baskets from CJ Gainey, McNeil and Anderson Porisch got the lead down to three and after trading points, the Tigers trailed by three, 17-14, after one quarter of play.
Out of the break, Lincoln again lit a fuse as eight straight points pushed the margin to 11 points, 25-14, in the first three minutes of play. But as they did in the first half, Huron responded. McNeil - who would end with 13 points in the contest - got a bucket, Gavin Moeding hit two free throws and Blake Ellwein got into the scorebook with a three from the left wing and the lead was suddenly back to four points. Lincoln got it back to eight points, 31-23 but Huron got a traditional three-point play from Ellwein and a three from Gainey that burned on re-entry and the Tigers trailed by four, 33-29 at the half, after trailing by double digits.
“When we were able to crack the press and not get ourselves into trouble, we were able to make runs,” Buddenhagen noted.
The Tigers flipped the script to open the third quarter, as a pair of McNeil free throws and three point field goals from Gainey and Porisch capped an 8-0 run and gave Huron its first lead since the opening minute of play. The teams traded points throughout much of the remainder of the quarter, until Lincoln’s Sam Ericsson hit a three and then a two on consecutive trips to give the Patriots the lead back at 43-41. Moeding hit one of two with 16 seconds in the quarter and Huron trailed by only one headed to the final stanza.
“We put the Lincoln press in last night at practice,” Buddenhagen shared, “and in the second half we knew we needed to ramp up the pressure and try to speed them up if we could, cause them some problems. It needs some work yet, but we were effective at times.”
Braxton Mohr hit a three to open the quarter and Lincoln led by four, but a rebound bucket from Porisch and two Ellwein charity tosses knotted the score for the final time, at 46-46.
Smith hit one of two for Lincoln, however, Gainey dialed long distance again and Ellwein hit one of two to put Huron up 50-47. The Tigers got a stop, got the ball up the floor and McNeil got a clear lane, hit the jets and gave Huron its largest lead of the night, at 52-47 with less than a minute to play.
Lincoln was not done, however, as quick passing got Ericsson an open look at a three and the sophomore hit shot, cutting the margin to two points with 32 ticks on the clock.
Forced to foul, Lincoln burned some time getting the job done. When they did manage to send the Tigers to the line, with 22 seconds left, McNeil saw both free throws rim out. Lincoln hurried up the floor and called timeout to set up a play.
The Tigers had used most of their timeouts earlier, to save possessions against the press, but had fouls to give.
The Patriots got DeGroot loose under the basket, but Ellwein swatted the shot out of bounds with 3.2 seconds to play and Huron bled out the clock with two late fouls, forcing Lincoln to burn time and the game ended without Lincoln getting off a potential tying shot.
“We made smart plays down the stretch and I think we really started anticipating instead of reacting,” Buddenhagen said. “I thought we did a really good job inside defensively in the second half tonight, pushing their big guy off the blocks and generally making things uncomfortable for him.”
Schafer led Lincoln with 14 points, all but two of them in the first half and Noll ended with 13, also with two in the second half. Lincoln’s big man, 6-foot, 6-inch Garry Crowe scored five points, none after the five minute mark of the second quarter.
In addition to McNeil’s 13 points, Gainey also scored 13, Ellwein added 12 and Porisch contributed 11, as having four players in double figures had a smile on Buddenhagen’s face.
“It was just a good all-around effort to get back into it and put this one in the win column tonight,” he said.
Lower level games went to Lincoln, as the Patriots won the Freshman contest 66-34 and also took the JV game, 68-36.
Huron 14 29 42 52
S.F. Lincoln 17 33 43 50
HURON (7-5): Colt McNeil 5 2-4 13; Gavin Moeding 0 3-4 3; Blake Ellwein 3 5-7 12; CJ Gainey 5 0-0 13; Anderson Porisch 5 0-0 12. Totals: 18 10-14 52.
S.F. LINCOLN (5-7): Tate Schafer 6 0-0 14; Edison Noll 5 1-2 13; Garry Crowe 2 0-0 5; Sam DeGroot 1 2-2 4; Jack Smith1 1-2 3; Sam Ericsson 3 0-0 8; Braxton Mohr 1 0-0 3. Totals: 15 4-6 50.