By Tyler Aukrust
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - After two 35-plus point losses earlier this week, the Minnesota Valley Lutheran boys basketball team was able to end the week on a high note.
The Chargers were tied with Wabasso at halftime, but a strong second half effort led MVL to a 87-78 victory in Tomahawk Conference basketball Friday night.
Justin Bruns led the way for the Chargers with 21 points while Chad Lease and Nick Dewanz each scored 16. Tanner Bock had a big game for Wabasso with 26 points and 13 rebounds while teammate Neil Eichten scored 21. Seth Guetter had 14 points and Scott Jenniges finished with 10.
The Chargers and Rabbits are both in the bottom half of the conference, due in large part to the lack of depth on both squads. After a hard-fought first half, it came down to which team had the most energy and could run away with the game.
That question was quickly answered by the Chargers.
"Second half has been our struggle," Wabasso coach Josh Hadley said. "We've had a lot of great games first half wise, but we've come out flat in the second half. I think it's because we only play five guys - we're struggling for numbers. They did a great job running up and down and making it a fast paced game and that's something we try to avoid. They are a great ball team when they get the ball up the floor and they flat out shot the ball well tonight.
"We tried several different defenses and whatever we threw at them didn't seem to work," Hadley added. "Hats off to them for playing heck of a ball game."
MVL quickly broke the 39-39 tie with a bucket seconds into the second half and the Chargers proceeded to increase that lead to 51-43 four minutes in and a 3-pointer by Bruns a minute later gave the Chargers a 54-45 advantage.
The Rabbits tried to claw back after Seth Guetter answered Josh Koelpin's three-pointer with a trey of his own midway into the half. However, Bruns answered right back as he converted a 3-point play followed by a bucket from Dewanz to give the Charger's their biggest lead of the night, 71-55.
Wabasso finally found itself down by just six points with 1:50 as a clutch 3-pointer from Eichten silenced the home crowd. Wabasso chose to foul down the stretch, leading to eight free throw opportunities for the Chargers.
MVL made five of those attempts and the Chargers were able to grab the offensive rebound both chances they got and a costly turnover on the other end of the floor stopped all momentum as the Chargers earned their fourth victory of the season.
"The guys brought up their intensity in the second half," MVL coach Craig Morgan said. "The guys ran the floor pretty well, we moved the ball around and shot pretty well and our free throws went down. We didn't rebound as well as we could have and turnovers, we had too many turnovers. We threw the ball right into people's hands and we can't do that."
The Chargers (4-17) will play four of its final five games of the regular season on the road and they will start with Cedar/Mountain Comfrey on Tuesday before returning back to town to take on New Ulm Cathedral next Friday.
Wabasso (8-13) will try to snap its four-game losing streak when it travels to Prinsburg on Monday to take on Central Minnesota Christian.