Boys' basketball: Cardinals searching for answers
The first day of the Hastings Holiday Classic boys' basketball tournament provided the Prescott Cardinals with a chance to mount a resume-building win against a large, one-loss Minnesota team, but the Cardinals ran out of answers when their game against the Stillwater Ponies came down to the wire.
The Cardinals (5-3) dropped their eighth game of the season by a 62-55 margin after leading 50-49 with just over five minutes to play in the Minnesota/Wisconsin challenge that featured 21 lead changes.
"We met a school five times bigger than we are, and we put ourselves in position to win the game, but we can't make that many turnovers," Prescott's head coach Nick Johnson said. "We had so many unforced errors. I thought what cost us the game was how careless we were with the basketball."
After claiming their final lead of the night with a putback from Brian Tayson, the Cardinals committed three costly turnovers that forced them to play from behind for the rest of the night.
"(Stillwater) played very good man-to-man defense, so it's not always easy to go against that kind of pressure," Johnson said. "But I think that we just need to be more careful with the ball."
The Cardinals got a good look from Dylan Malmlov who shot a jumper from the left elbow to tie the game when down 52-50 with three minutes to go, but the shot rimmed out and led to frantic play from Prescott. Prior to intentionally fouling the Ponies (7-1) in the final minute of the game, the Cardinals looked timid while looking for scoring opportunities and were trigger-happy when attempting to make passes to their well-guarded teammates.
Tayson hit one of his three 3-point attempts in the final minute of the game to narrow the deficit to 61-53, and Jacob Doffing set the final score at 62-55 by finding a late bucket in the paint. Doffing finished with 23 points to lead the Cardinals in scoring, and Stillwater's Nate Shikenjanski made the same scoring contribution in his team's win.
"We just have a couple of guys who want to step up and have the ball in their hands," Johnson said. "At times, when it comes to who wants the ball in their hands and who's going to come up with big shots, we're searching for answers right now. I think it's going to take us some time to get those answers."
Defensively, the Cardinals stuck with a 2-3 defense, which made the Ponies slow down their offense and wait patiently for looks in the paint. Very few of Stillwater's 62 points came from transition baskets until Prescott's offense broke down during crunch time.
"We had an opportunity to win a big game against a big school, and it's a lost opportunity," Johnson said. "I would not say that their team was better than we are. I think that we can beat that team any given night, but we need kids to step up."
Prescott will face the Hastings Raiders (2-5), who lost 83-65 to the Irondale Knights (4-3) on Thursday night, at 5 p.m. at Hastings High School on Friday, Dec. 28.
Scoring for the Cardinals: Doffing 23, Tayson 13, Malmlov 12, Joe Lubich 5, Mason Holte 2.
OTHER AREA BOYS' BASKETBALL SCORES:
Cuba City 70, Spring Valley 49
Ellsworth 49, Glenwood City 45