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By Amber Hayden
ELK MOUND — Elk Mound boys’ basketball team came tantalizing close to keeping its hold on third place in the Dunn-St. Croix standings.
But an intense and swift Durand Panthers squad had other ideas when they clashed with the Mounders in Elk Mound last Friday evening in Elk Mound.
The Panthers built a 26-21 halftime advantage and then just barely held off the host Mounders in second half to take a 48-47 win in the January 18 contest and sole possession of third place in the conference.
The loss dropped Elk Mound, 3-3 in the D-SC, into a fourth-place tie with Mondovi, who the Mounders were supposed to host last Tuesday, January 15 only to have the game postponed due to icy road conditions. The contest has been rescheduled for Monday, February 18 meaning the teams will play each other twice in three days as the teams will meet in Mondovi on February 15.
Against Durand last Friday, the first half was scoreless through the first five minutes of play before T.J. Tulip of Durand went to the line for two shots off a foul by Rian Flynn and sank one for 1-0 Durand lead.
“I feel like our kids have shown from growth,” head coach Michael Kessler stated. “We are starting to see kids like Cade Hanson and Blaze Todd really turn the corner.”
Another minute would tick off the clock before Jake Mentzel entered the game and hit his first trey since having to sit out from any sort of play since December.
An injury time out on behalf of Durand’s Christian O’Keefe was called at 10:59 after he went sailing through the open doors of the gym and was left feeling dazed. He exited the game for a few minutes.
Elk Mound took an early lead of 13-5 on baskets by Marcus Kinblom, Nate Lew, Rian Flynn and Brett Lew.
But Durand came back for two off a bucket from Isaiah Whitwam to bring the Panthers within six.
Marcus Kinblom hit a second double but that proved to be his final points of the game as he exited with four minutes left in the first half. Kinblom injured his knee, according to coach Kessler, and was attempting to work it out on the bike during half time but could not move his leg without feeling pain in every direction and did not return.
“At this point in the year the risk is do you put him in and risk something down the road or play it safe,” Kessler explained. “We played it safe tonight, our guys responded pretty well to it and played tough to the end.”
Senior Brett Lew stepped up for Elk Mound, hitting the glass for two doubles, a pair of threes and was two-of-four from the charity stripe to led the Mounders with a dozen points.
The first 18 minutes came to an end as Christian O’Keefe, who returned from the earlier injury, put in three points at the buzzer, giving Durand a five-point lead at half on a score of 26-21.
But Elk Mound wasn’t about to throw in the towel as it came from the locker room for the second of play, fired up and ready to get back into the game.
Blaze Todd and Rian Flynn combined for 14 points with Todd hitting three doubles and pair of foul shots while Flynn sank two triples.
As the night went on, the intensity grew as the last 30 seconds were to be the most exciting and nerve-racking for the coaches, fans, and players.
Nate Lew hit the final points for the Mounders on a three to give the Mounders a 47-46 lead with 32.7 seconds left to go.
But Durand’s Fletcher Weiss answered back with two to give Durand an 48-47 with just 8.1 left in the game.
Rian Flynn along with the rest of the Mounders scrambled to the other end of the court. Flynn launched a three as the horn sounded but the shot just missed the basket to give the Panthers a one-point win on the Mounders’ home court.
Nate Lew finished his evening with a double, a pair of threes and was one-of-two from the line for a total of five points.
Adding to Elk Mound’s points were teammates Cade Hanson with a double and pair of foul shots, Ryan Bohl hit the net from outside the arc for three, and Colton Ward added two more points.
“We knew we needed to get the stop and get up and pressure them,” Kessler said. “We switched to man to man in order to hold them, we had the opportunity to win the game on our end and we missed the shot.”
The Mounders, currently 5-7 overall, faced the Cloverbelt’s Regis Ramblers this past Monday, January 21, and will host both the Boyceville Bulldogs on Thursday, January 24, and their bitter rivals, the Colfax Vikings, next Tuesday, January 29.
ELK MOUND 47, DURAND 48
Elk Mound….….….……21 26 – 47
Durand….….….…..…….26 22 – 48
TEAM STATISTICS (FG-FT-F-TP)
Elk Mound— R. Bohl 1-0-0-3, R. Flynn 2-0-3-6, N. Lew 1-2-1-5, C. Ward 0-2-0-2, C. Hanson 1-2-1-4, B. Lew 4-2-0-12, J. Mentzel 1-0-0-3, B. Todd 3-2-3-8, M. Kinblom 2-0-2-4.
Durand— F. Weiss 5-0-3-11, C. O’Keefe 2-0-0-6, C. Hurlburt 3-0-0-6, R. Radle 1-2-2-4, T. Tulip 1-3-1-5, I. Whitwam 5-1-4-12, C. Berger 2-0-1-4.
EM— R. Bohl 1, R. Flynn 2, N. Lew 2, B. Lew 2, J. Mentzel 1; D— F. Weiss 1, C. O’Keefe 2, I. Whitwam 1.