Cagers continue to roll with wins over Molalla, Central

Just playing their game has been the focus for the Husky boys basketball team. In the past week, they have comfortably done just that. And neither Molalla nor Central could do much about it.

After a tough loss to league-leading Stayton, Coach Mark Risen felt a strong case of amnesia was in order. A quick 9-0 start on the Molalla court last Tuesday aided the process of forgetting, as Sweet Home led wire to wire in a 53-38 conquest of the Indians.

In that early blitz, the two key players of the game, Nik Walker and Josh Bondesen, gave immediate signs of what was to come as both connected on three-pointers. Walker continued his offensive splurge, scoring all 13 of his points in the first half, mixing his points off penetration and transition opportunities.

In the second half, Walker reassumed the role of floor commander and concentrated on shutting down Molalla’s David Bratcher.

“He’s content with his role even though he has superstar potential,” said Risen. That role has a number of aspects to it, including pushing the ball up the floor on transition, penetrating the defense, and on this night, playing suffocating defense against Bratcher.

“He put a blanket on him,” noted Risen.

In the second half, Bondesen took up where Walker left off and finished the game with 15 points as the Huskies’ leading scorer. On a night when Sweet Home scorched the nets on 20 of 29 from the field, Bondesen was 5 for 6 and Walker was 5 for 8. Jake Gaskey and Wes Smith followed up with 8 and 6 points respectively.

“Josh has really created more opportunities for himself because he’s been more aggressive,” said Risen. Risen thinks that Bondesen and Walker have established a certain chemistry between themselves, growing out of the two man games they have in practice. “They feed off each other and get each other going.”

Always emphasizing the team aspect of the game, the Huskies also got key performances from Matt Matuszak, who had 5 assists as a replacement in the starting lineup for the injured Kevin Furry, and Casey Aiello, who was 2 for 2 from the field and added 3 steals and 2 assists.

On Friday at Central, which was 3-0 going into the contest, Sweet Home continued from where they left off, controlling the tempo from the outset. Fending off a couple of runs in the second and third quarters, the Huskies maintained their composure to defeat the Panthers, 63-51, and raise their league mark to 3-1.

Expecting a 2-3 zone defense, the Panthers came out in a man to man defense instead, allowing the Huskies the comfort of moving patiently through their motion offense, looking for penetration and the deep inside threat, and occasionally opting to get out in transition.

“But I wanted to be opportunistic with those,” Risen explained. “I didn’t want to go into an all out run and gun.”

With this balanced attack and balanced scoring, Sweet Home led at the end of the first quarter 13-7. What was most impressive was the fact that they had no turnovers or fouls and allowed no offensive boards throughout the entire period. Was the team satisfied?

“I thought we were lethargic,” said Risen. “Even the kids felt sluggish. They didn’t feel that crisp intensity.”

Out of the break, they seemed to energize, boosted by two three point plays, one by Wes Smith, who was already showing dominance on the boards, and the other by Matt Matuszak, who penetrated consistently throughout the game. Those two and Josh Bondesen accounted for all the Husky production in the second quarter with 5 points apiece.

After leaping out to a 24-9 lead in the first two and a half minutes, Sweet Home faced the first of two challenges mounted by Central against a revamped Husky lineup.

In just a minute and a half, the Panthers pressure on defense forced numerous turnovers and the penetration of sophomore substitute Jordan Pratt helped Central clip the lead to 24-17.

“Central is a good team, and a good team is going to make its run,” Risen stated. “You’ve got to be ready for its run and be prepared to counter it.”

Without calling a time-out, the Huskies made some matchup adjustments during a dead ball situation and switched their offense and defense to stem the tide. Bondesen hit a three point play to end the Panther binge and a tough half court trap limited Central for the rest of the half as Sweet Home regained momentum heading into the locker room with a 31-19 lead.

“It feeds their intensity,” said Risen regarding the half court trap. “They get excited about running it. They may be better at it than running our man.”

The intensity remained high starting the second half. Jake Gaskey was the recipient of some inside penetration dishes from Walker and Matuszak to ignite the Huskies to a 16 point margin after just two minutes. That’s when the Panthers staged their second charge, sparked by Central’s scoring leader, Joey Hinojosa, who to that point had been a minor factor in the game.

“You know he’s going to get his,” acknowledged Risen on Hinojosa’s 20 point performance. “If no one else has a big night, then you’re fine.”

Bondesen had the task of keeping Hinojosa out of the flow of the offense, which he did when he was matched up against him. But Risen has been most pleased with the vocal leadership that he has asserted as the season has progressed. During the second run, it was a signal from Bondesen that eased the tension.

“He gave me the ‘hey, we got it coach; relax,” said Risen. “It gave me a huge boost of confidence that they were in control out on the floor.”

Bondesen displayed that control by knocking down another 3 pointer to end a run for the second time in the evening. Central got as close as 5 points in the 4th quarter, but back to back to back steals late in the game by Bondesen, Walker, and Smith sealed the deal.

Smith paced the all out team effort with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 assists. Several of those assists went to Jake Gaskey, his post partner, on inbound plays that Sweet Home often exploited. Gaskey finished with 13 points and Bondesen had 15.

But all the Huskies pitched in. Walker had 5 assists and 3 steals to go with his 8 points. Likewise, Matuszak contributed with 7 points and 3 assists and Aaron Hegge, the third post player to do damage, had 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

“We’re a team,” stated Risen. “Central played a lot of one on one.”

For the second consecutive game, the Huskies shot over .500 from the floor, another sign that they have found and are playing their game.

“We just want to keep the roll going, keep putting wins together, and have fun,” Risen emphasized.

Calendar: The Husky team bus rolls into Sisters this Friday in a 6 p.m. contest. It’s likely that “their game” will be part of the luggage.