NEW ULM - Cedar Mountain/Comfrey nearly scaled a 17-point halftime deficit against Minnesota Valley Lutheran to keep its winning streak going.
However, the comeback effort went for naught as MVL held on for an 87-82 victory in Tomahawk Conference boy's basketball on Tuesday night, which snapped CM/C's three-game winning streak.
"We obviously didn't come out ready to play," said CM/C coach Brian Pendleton. "The first time we played them, we only gave up 51 points for the entire game - they had 52 at halftime. I give a lot of credit to them, they came out and outworked us."
The Chargers (9-13, 8-6 Tomahawk) bolted out to a 52-35 halftime lead after finishing the first half on an 18-5 run within the final 5:30 thanks to their offense's solid flow.
"[The Cougars] were sitting back a little bit, it seemed like," said MVL coach Craig Morgan. "Our guys looked and they saw some openings inside. When they collapsed inside, we hit our shots outside."
Following a basket by Josh Green that tied the game at 16-16 early in the first half, the Cougars (10-11, 7-8) allowed an 18-10 run to fall behind 34-26. That spurred on MVL's 18-5 sprint to the halftime buzzer.
Chad Lease scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the first half on 5-of-9 shooting. Overall, Lease shot 50 percent from the field (7-of-14) and hit 7-of-8 free throws.
"Chad's been pretty quiet the past couple weeks," Morgan said. "Just the other night, he came out of his shell a little bit out at Wabasso, so that helped us out a lot."
Morgan also commended Lease's defense on CM/C point guard Javin Larsen, who shot 1-for-7 for two points in the first half.
Aside from Riley Kerkhoff's 12 first-half points and Green's nine, the Cougars struggled offensively in the first half as the Chargers' lead grew.
"As we got down, we tried to play a little bit faster," Pendleton said. "But our whole issue on the night was defense and rebounding - and we didn't do either."
Nick Dewanz also played a big part in the first-half scoring frenzy for MVL, netting 10 of his 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The 6-foot-5 senior finished the game shooting 58 percent (7-of-12) from the floor.
"As tall as he is and strong as he is, Nick should be able to do all right inside," Morgan said. "He hit a couple nice jumpers too."
The Cougars mounted a comeback in the second half after changing their defensive scheme, however. Chandler Rose led the comeback with 12 of his team-high 19 points in the second half that were staples in numerous runs.
"We got up and down the floor a little bit better, we were a little bit better prepared the second half," Pendleton said. "When our guards penetrate and dish, that makes for a lot of easy shots for Chandler."
Two 3-pointers by Larsen pulled the Cougars to within six at 86-80, but the 5-of-6 free-throw shooting of Josh Wong down the stretch kept them at bay.
The Cougars, who outscored the Chargers 47-35 in the second half, lost their first game since Jan. 28.
Lease and Dewanz led the MVL scoring attack with 23 and 19 points while Josh Wong finished with 11. High scorers off the bench for MVL included Nate Wong's eight points and 10 from Ethan Westphal.
All five CM/C starters scored in double figures led by Rose's 19 points. Riley Kerkhoff scored 17, Larsen and Green each had 14 while Brady Kerkhoff netted 11.
The Section 2A seedings will be released on Wednesday, but Pendleton did not sound so sure as to where his team will land.
"We could be anywhere from a [No.] 2 to a 6 seed, but I don't know where we'll be at now," Pendleton said. "We had been playing better, but unfortunately tonight we kind of laid an egg."
MVL has beaten Wabasso and CM/C in its previous two games, which Morgan hopes will pay dividends for section seedings.
"It's a good confidence-booster for us," Morgan said. "Hopefully the other coaches in the section see it and give some respect out of that."
CM/C will host Wabasso on Friday, while MVL will host crosstown rival New Ulm Cathedral on Thursday.
CM/C 35 47 - 82
MVL 52 35 - 87
CEDAR MOUNTAIN/COMFREY (82)
Larsen 6-19 0-0 14, R Kerkhoff 8-10 0-0 17, Rose 8-12 2-2 19, B Kerkhoff 5-13 1-2 11, Green 6-10 2-3 14, Maurer 3-8 0-0 7, Dallenbach 0-1 0-0 0, Richter 0-3 0-0 0.
MINNESOTA VALLEY LUTHERAN (87)
J Wong 3-4 5-6 11, Lease 7-14 7-8 23, Hoffman 3-7 0-0 7, Kroells 2-4 1-1 5, Dewanz 7-12 5-6 19, N Wong 3-5 0-0 8, Koelpin 1-5 0-2 3, Westphal 5-9 0-0 10, Parker 0-2 0-0 0, Fischer 1-1 0-0 2.