St. Mary’s holds off Springfield rally

SLEEPY EYE — Leading by as much as 14 in the first half against Springfield, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s saw the Tigers chip away at that lead and whittle it down to 2 in the second half.

But the Knights got some key takeaways and free throws in the final minute to hold off the Tigers and win 76-69 in Tomahawk Conference boys’ basketball action at St. Mary’s High School on Friday night.

The Knights were led by Carson Domeier’s 21 points, while Kaleb Wait and Trent Steffensmeier added 12 points apiece. Jacob Lux chipped in 11 points for the Knights, while freshman Will Walter hit a trio of 3s for 9 points.

The Tigers were led by Mason Leonard’s 18 points, while Dylan Batzlaff had 17 and Brendon Buerkle had 15. Ryan Vogel added 11 points for Springfield.

“Early in the game, we got off to a nice little start,” Knights head coach Judd Walter said. “We shared the ball offensively and hit some shots inside-out. Springfield did a great job of hitting some timely buckets also, kind of closed that gap a little bit. But I was happy with how we defended for the most part and kept that lead the whole game and kind of finished it off at the free-throw line.”

After a stepback 3 in the corner by Vogel had the Tigers down 72-69 with less than 30 seconds to play, the Knights got a pair of double-bonus free throws by Domeier to lead 74-69. With the Tigers looking for an open man on offense, Steffensmeier stole a pass and sank a pair of double-bonus free throws with 6.2 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

Earlier in the half, the Tigers cut the deficit to 54-52 on a 3 by Batzlaff before the Knights went on an 8-0 run to lead 62-52.

The Knights got a 6-0 run early in the first half to lead 19-10. During the run, Lux hit a deep jumper, Steffensmeier had a steal for a layup and Wait had a spin-move layup.

The Tigers ended that run with a bucket inside by Logan Richert and a 3 by Caleb Hauger to trail 19-15, but the Knights went on another run soon after to lead 27-15.

Springfield ended the half with an 11-1 run to trail 40-36 at halftime, getting a 3 and a pair of free throws by Batzlaff and three buckets in the paint by Leonard during the run.

As the regular season winds down in the next few weeks, Walter said his team learned how key taking care of the ball was after an early loss to Minnesota Valley Lutheran on Jan. 26. He also said that remaining disciplined against strong defensive teams will be important from here out.

“We like to run and gun and take transition buckets when they’re there, but we also know that we need to be a little more disciplined, especially against teams that are strong that are strong defensively or can contain some of our guys,” Walter said.

The Knights (9-2, 9-1) host Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop on Tuesday night, while the Tigers (6-4, 6-3) host Sleepy Eye on Tuesday night.


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