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By Marlys Kruger
When the Elk Mound boys invaded the Colfax gym Friday, January 22, both teams had just one loss in Dunn-St. Croix Conference play. Both teams were also coming off a conference win, with the Vikings playing probably their best game of the season with a 53-51 win over Spring Valley, while the Mounders had blasted Boyceville 78-40.
The few fans in the stands were hoping for a close game between the long-time rivals, but after an evenly played game in the first five minutes, it was all Elk Mound after that and they finished with a 61-36 victory over the Vikings.
Ethan Levra and Nate Lew started things off for the Mounders with a bucket each, but those were countered by Noah Heidorn’s pair of deuces for a 4-4 tie early in the game.
Colfax went on a six-point run when Nathan Hydukovich drained a triple, Tanner Hoffman hit a free toss and Caden Erickson connected on a short jumper.
Elk Mound responded quickly, forcing several turnovers by the Vikings with their dangerous 1-3-1 zone defense, and used those turnovers to spark their offense.
Kaden Russo started a seven-point run with a pair of free throws and a jumper in the paint, Michael Jenson drained a trey, Russo added a deuce and a free toss to go with it and Levra drilled a triple to make it a 17-10 Mounders’ lead and the Vikings couldn’t recover from the deficit.
Tristan Lenz scored on an offensive rebound for Colfax, but Elk Mound’s defense wouldn’t allow the Vikings to get anywhere near the basket the rest of the half, resulting in nine possessions in which they only got three shots off, all of them missing the mark.
Meanwhile, Jenson’s triple started an avalanche that kept rolling and rolling until the Mounders were up by 17 points at 35-12. Levra, Jenson, Lew, and Heath all canned shots from long range during the run and Heath ended the half with a shot from under the basket.
“We watched tape of Colfax’s last couple of games and knew we had to get defenders on their top shooters,” Mounders’ coach Michael Kessler said. “We contested most of their shots and got into their passing lanes to force turnovers, then managed to score points off those turnovers. We try to preach to our guys the other team is going to make baskets but we need to make them take tough shots,” he added.
Hoffman tried to get the Vikings back into the game with a pair of shots from the paint to start the second half, and a couple of Erickson free tosses helped, too.
But the Mounders continued to match points again when Russo knocked down a triple, Ryan Bartig hit two freebies and Heath scored from underneath for a 43-18 Mounder advantage.
Colfax gave up the ball on three straight possessions before Lenz scored from close range, but Lew knocked in a couple of free throws to match those points. Drew Gibson, the second leading scorer for the Vikings, connected on a pair of free throws for his first points of the night and Lew again matched those with two more free tosses. Russo had become somewhat of an expert at drawing fouls at this point and he scored on a layup and added the free throw to make it a 53-31 lead for his team.
Hydukovich banked in a shot from behind the arc with around four minutes left, but Bartig added a pair of free throws. Levra scored from the lane and Bartig added two more free tosses and it was 59-34 for the Mounders.
Elijah Entzminger dropped in two free tosses for the Vikings’ final points and Jerome Delikowski finished off the Mounders scoring with a shot off an offensive rebound.
“They really came out strong and hit their shots and had everything clicking for them,” Colfax coach Mark Noll said. “I give them credit for how hard they played. We were only outscored by three points in the second half but the damage was already done. We will regroup and keep on working to get better,” he concluded.
Heath led the Mounders with 16 points while Russo was close behind with 15, and Levra 10. The Mounders shot 11-of-15 from the foul line with six treys in the game. Colfax was seven-of-12 at the charity stripe with a pair of treys.
Colfax clips Spring Valley
After not having played a game since mid-December, it could have been expected the Vikings would be a little rusty when they hosted the Cardinals who were at the top of the conference with just one loss.
It appeared that way early on when they fell behind 19-11 before Heidorn hit a pair of free throws. Gibson drained a triple which was countered by Charlie Maier and suddenly Spring Valley was up 25-16.
But, the up-tempo and aggressive play by the Vikings began to force some errors by the Cardinals and the Vikings began to find the bucket on offense. Heidorn hit from close up, Gibson added a deuce, and Hunter Rebak scored on a put back to get them closer, down 27-22.
The Vikings came up with back-to-back steals but their over- zealousness resulted in their own turnovers and the Cardinals scored on a fast break layup to go up 31-22.
Lenz scored on an offensive rebound and Hydukovich then finished the first half scoring with a free throw and a put back, leaving Colfax down 33-27 at the break.
“We hadn’t played a game for almost a month and we had a lot of pent up energy,” coach Noll said. “We didn’t want Spring Valley to get comfortable and wanted to get them in foul trouble which we did.”
The Vikings stormed out of the locker room and immediately began scoring.
Gibson found Hydukovich under the hoop for two, Erickson went end-to-end for a layup and Gibson drained a pair of treys, with the second one knotting the score at 37-37.
From there on it was nip and tuck with neither team leading by more then four points. Spring Valley scored from under the hoop but Erickson responded with a nifty reverse layup to make it 39-39.
The Cardinals again found a hole in the Vikings’ defense for a deuce and this time Heidorn knotted it up with a short jumper. Erickson scored from the paint to put Colfax up 43-41 with around nine minutes left but the Viking s’ defense just couldn’t stop the Cardinals from scoring fast break points and Spring Valley regained the lead at 45-43.
But that lead didn’t last long as Lenz hit a free toss followed by Gibson’s spin around shot in the paint, allowing Colfax to get the lead back. Hydukovich swiped the ball and scored on a layup, and made it a three-point play with his free throw to put Colfax up 49-45.
After another Cardinal deuce, Erickson put up a floater that fell through the basket. Two more shots by the Cardinals, combined with four empty possessions on the Vikings’ part, allowed Spring Valley to knot the score on yet another shot right near the basket.
Tied at 51-51 with around two and a half minutes to go, coach Noll made the decision to try and hold the ball for a final shot.
“We just couldn’t stop them from scoring so we didn’t want to give the ball back to them,” he said. “It was a gamble but we took our chances at going for the last shot. It was a long time to keep the ball away from them but I trusted our guys and they did a great job and didn’t panic.”
The strategy looked like it was going to backfire when the Vikings waited until eight seconds to go for a shot. A closely guarded Vikings player tossed the ball up to the basket but it bounced off the rim. Talk about being in the right place at the right time, Hoffman, who’s only points of the game were on four, first-half free throws, grabbed the rebound and shot a short jumper. The ball bounced around but finally went through for the winning basket with just 1.8 seconds left. Spring Valley attempted a long pass but didn’t get a final shot off resulting in a 53-51 Colfax win.
Gibson and Erickson led the Vikings with 13 points each and Hydukovich added eight. The team was nine-for-11 at the foul line. Michael Bauer led the Cardinals with 12 points and they were four-of-five from the stripe.
Colfax will be busy this week with four games on their schedule which are all on the road. They will start Monday night (January 25) at Boyceville, travel to Durand Tuesday, play at Elmwood/Plum City Thursday, and face off against Elk Mound in a Saturday night game. The Vikings will then return home early next week to host Boyceville on Monday, February 1 and Glenwood City on Tuesday, February 2.
Mounders beat Boyceville
The Mounders had a much easier game leading up to the Colfax game with the 38-point win over Boyceville. Holding leads of 10-0, 21-5, 26-11 and 33-18 pretty much put the game away by halftime when they were up 35-20.
“I thought we were a little lethargic in the first half and we were not crisp on either end at times,” coach Kessler said.
Five players finished in double figures for Elk Mound as they outscored the Bulldogs 43-20 in the second half. Russo and Jenson tied for scoring honors with 17 points each while Heath tacked on 16, Lew 11 and Ryan Bohl ten. The Mounders drained ten triples including three by Jenson and two each by Bohl, Bartig and Russo. They finished five-of-nine from the foul stripe in the 78-40 victory. Connor Sempf was the leading scorer for Boyceville with 12 points and the Bulldogs were 12-for-22 at the free throw line.
“We buckled down more in the second half and really played solid defense,” Kessler said. “Offensively we were able to get a lot of shots around the rim because we did a much better job of screening bodies and coming tight to screens. We are looking forward to the always fun rivalry game against Colfax,” he added.
Elk Mound will host three games this week starting with Durand Monday night, Spring Valley Thursday night, and Colfax in a Saturday night contest. The following week they will finish out the five-game homestand by hosting Durand on Monday, February 1 followed by Elmwood/Plum City on Tuesday, February 2.