NEW ULM - In a must-win game to stay alive in the Tomahawk Conference race, Minnesota Valley Lutheran shot itself in the foot one too many times.
Despite spurts of productivity here and there, MVL was ultimately unable to come back against Springfield in a 77-67 loss in boy's basketball action on Friday night.
"I don't know what we did wrong, but we didn't come out with the intensity that we looked like we had here in the locker room," said MVL coach Craig Morgan. "We made some mistakes early in the half and then we adjusted to them, but it was a little late. We had to start making some better decisions."
Junior post Tyler Vogel scored eight points with two free throws and a 3-for-3 performance from the field as part of Springfield's 17-7 lead 5:25 into the game.
Vogel later cooled down, but not before dropping a game-high 26 points for the Tigers (6-8, 5-3 Tomahawk). Cooper Scheffler also eclipsed the 20-point mark, adding 21 on 8-of-13 shooting.
"They're our two leading scorers," said Springfield coach Lance Larson. "They're our leaders, two of our captains. We've got to have good games out of them to be successful."
The Tigers' defensive press worked in slowing down the Chargers (6-10, 5-5) as they jumped out to a 21-9 lead. Baskets from Nick Dewanz and DeAndre Parker narrowed that gap, capping off a 6-4 MVL run at a 30-second timeout from Morgan.
MVL extended its run to 14-8 within the span of seven minutes to pull to 25-21, but Springfield ended the half leading 40-31 behind six late points from Vogel and five from Scheffler.
"We talked about playing with poise," Larson said. "I thought we got a little panicky when it started to get close and they started running 'jump' on us."
Both teams came out of the half firing offensively - almost every possession ended in a score for either team. Springfield netted a 10-7 run less than three minutes into the half.
MVL senior Chad Lease was held to four points on 2-of-5 shooting in the first half, but broke out for six-straight baskets in the second after missing his first shot to finish with a team-high 16 points.
"He got a little more determined, a little more focused and the shots were coming for him at that time," Morgan said of Lease. "He wasn't forcing them and they were playing some good defense."
Springfield led 60-41 after a basket from Carter Erickson for its largest margin of the game. But MVL netted 11 of the next 13 points scored to pull to within 10 with 6:06 to go.
A 10-7 run capped off by five points from Jacob Hoffman pulled MVL to a 69-62 deficit with 3:25 to go. However, Springfield made the free throws it needed to seal the victory.
"For us, this was a must-win game," Morgan said. "I don't know if you can get to the top of the conference with five losses."
MVL hosts Martin County West at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, while Springfield will host Cedar Mountain/Comfrey at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Springfield 40 37 - 77
MVL 31 36 - 67
Erickson 5-10 2-2 13, Scheffler 8-13 2-2 21, Runck 3-5 1-3 7, Meendering 3-5 0-2 7, Vogel 10-17 5-6 26, Ahlness 0-1 0-0 0, Salonek 1-1 0-2 2, Richert 0-0 1-2 1.
J Wong 1-4 0-0 2, Lease 8-12 0-3 16, Parker 3-7 1-2 8, Kroells 5-10 2-4 12, Dewanz 4-9 0-0 8, Koelpin 1-3 2-2 4, Hoffman 5-15 0-2 11, Westphal 2-3 0-0 4, N Wong 0-2 2-4 2, Plocher 0-1 0-0 0.