Huskies battle Marist but lose 66-65

If you are looking to play a couple of tough opponents in boys basketball, look no farther than down the road in the Sky-Em division. Both Cottage Grove and Marist have quality programs and both have a solid inside game.

Cottage Grove used a trio of 6’4 and taller players to pound the ball inside consistently as well as dominate the offensive boards to stamp a 66-65 loss onto the Huskies record. Marist has an even taller starting line up, featuring the 6’8″ Ryan Coldren, though Coldren got into foul trouble in the first half and saw limited action. The Spartans combined height with quickness to also accumulate numerous offensive rebounds in laying a 69-58 defeat onto the Huskies.

The Huskies used an aggressive defense for some easy transition baskets and foul shots as the game see-sawed back and forth in the first half against Cottage Grove. The Lions tried to make a run in the second quarter, but Ricky Howe found a couple of open shots that neutralized their attempt. In the last three Husky possessions, Tyler Emmert found a way to get into position for some scoring opportunities, whether by foul, offensive rebound, or a an assist from a driving Tim Matuszak. That put the Huskies down by three at the half.

In the second half, Cottage Grove began to consistently do what they do best: take the ball inside and follow up their misses. It allowed them to steadily pull away while their pressure defense made it difficult for anyone but Matuszak to score.

Matuszak scored 15 points in the second half, many off his patented drives but also connecting from the outside. But every time the Huskies scored, Cottage Grove came back with an immediate answer. Often from the offensive glass.

“So much of rebounding is habitual,” said coach Mark Risen, who knew what to expect from the Lions going in. “With five practices, we haven’t had a lot of time to stop and break it down in drills.”

Against Marist, both teams came out with in-your-face defenses, denying the passing lanes aggressively. Ricky Howe, who scored 23 points for the game, turned that aggressiveness into his favor by finding open lanes to the hoop and forcing Marist into early foul problems.

Throughout the game, the Spartans never saw a shot they didn’t like, most of them going awry in the first half. Among the quickest and among the most active was Tyler Coleman, whose defense caused Sweet Home problems in starting up their offense. But Sweet Home’s defense was just as pesky, as both teams forced each other into numerous turnovers in the first quarter.

Leading by one, Marist came out on fire in the second quarter, making their first three shots without a Husky response. But that was all in the first two minutes and the Spartans only managed one free throw shot for the remainder of the quarter. The Huskies closed the gap while the Marist starters began picking up fouls. And when Marist went to the bench, their offense went south, and Anthony Mink lit up the scoreboard with 10 of his 19 points to give the Huskies a 27-19 lead.

Then came the third quarter. The Marist shots started to fall and when they didn’t, they went to the offensive boards. In the first three minutes, Marist broke out on a 12-2 run. Howe helped to keep the game close with six points after the run.

The run continued in the fourth quarter. What was a two point lead at the beginning of the quarter gradually stretched to a ten point deficit five minutes later.

“Once they got the momentum going, it was hard for us to stop that and get ourselves going,” said Mink. “Our offensive timing isn’t that great yet and we have to cut down the touches for the other team.”

Part of that will just come with more practices.

“The most important thing is to improve, making a step every game,” said Mink. “We took a huge step against Cottage Grove and an even bigger step against Marist.”

Risen agrees, saying they didn’t have many good minutes against Elmira despite the victory, about 6 minutes against Cottage Grove, and about 14 minutes of sound basketball in the Marist game.

“We don’t have basketball legs under us yet,” said Risen. “It’s coming. You see glimmers of it here and there.”

The next chances to take big steps come at home, first against Toledo last night and then against Lebanon on Friday.