Irlbeck’s shot lifts Cardinals by Tigers

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello Springfield’s Decker Scheffler goes up for a lay up during the first half against Redwood Valley Thursday in Springfield. For more photos of this event go to

SPRINGFIELD — Redwood Valley handed No. 2 Springfield a 79-77 loss on Thursday night in boys’ basketball action after Mitch Irlbeck dropped in a bucket inside with seconds to play.

Irlbeck, who had 24 points on the night for the Cardinals, got the ball at the top of the key with the clock ticking away and waited to take one final shot. With Isaac Fink defending him one-on-one, Irlbeck backed down into the paint, turned around and got a shot to fall.

Fink then got one last shot from three quarters of the floor with 2 seconds left. The shot banged off the board, though, and the Cardinals escaped with the big victory.

“He wasn’t playing up on me,” Irlbeck said of his final shot over Fink. “I knew I didn’t wanna take a 3, I wanted to go in for a layup, and he was kind of backing off. He started clapping and said ‘let’s go’, so I was like ‘alright.” I drove in on him, spun around to the left — and there was no help side there — so I kind of just threw it up and it dropped.”

Irlbeck also said that although it isn’t quite a rivalry, the team still wanted to be the first to knock off Springfield this season and was glad to see it happen.

Fink led the Tigers with 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Tanner Vogel had 19 points, eight boards and six assists. Decker Scheffler added 11 points for the Tigers and Nolan Hovland dished out six assists.

The Tigers trailed for most of the night, with their only first-half lead being up 4-2 in the opening minutes of the game. A 3 by Cole Woodford gave the Cardinals a 19-9 lead, which forced the Tigers to burn a timeout with 10:17 left in the half.

After an and-one finish and a 3-pointer by Fink, the Tigers cut the deficit to 24-20 moments later. Payton Nelson, however, knocked down a 3 to halt the Tigers’ run and put the Cardinals back up by 7.

Led by Woodford’s 18 points in the first half, Redwood Valley led Springfield at the break 39-33. Woodford drained four 3s in the first half and finished the night with 24 points, five assists and five rebounds.

Four buckets in the paint by Springfield opened up the second half and gave the Tigers a 41-39 lead. The lead was brief, though, as the Cardinals went on a 14-0 run to lead 53-41 and force another Springfield timeout minutes later.

Deo Charles later sank a 3 that gave Redwood Valley its largest lead of the night, 61-45. Charles added 11 points and five boards on the night for the Cardinals.

Springfield began to press and create turnovers and after a 3 by Mitchell Buerkle in the corner had the Tigers down 61-54, the Cardinals took a timeout with 8:32 left to play.

Springfield trailed by 5 with 1:30 left in the game and tied things up after a 3 by Scheffler and a pair of free throws by Fink. Despite the late-game heroics by Springfield, Redwood Valley got the one up on the Tigers in the end.

Springfield coach Lance Larson said that he hopes his team can learn from the loss and continue to work on the things they didn’t do as well.

“Like I told the kids, maybe we were were there somewhat in the vicinity [on the Cardinals 3-point shots], but I think we closed out very hard,” Larson said. “But when we did, we didn’t get a hand up in their face and it’s a little easier to shoot when you’re just standing there with your hands down. And I think they killed us on the boards in the first half.”

Logan Josephson led the Cardinals in rebounds with 10.

The Tigers fall to 10-1 on the year with the loss, while the Cardinals improve to 7-5 with the win. Springfield hosts Sleepy Eye at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, while Redwood Valley hosts Pipestone Area at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.