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By Marlys Kruger
It was a tough week for the Elk Mound boys as they faced off against two of the leading teams in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference.
Starting on Monday, January 25, the Mounders lost 47-39 to the Durand Panthers, then on Thursday, January 28 they were just seven seconds away from a win over the Spring Valley Cardinals, but ended up dropping the contest 42-40.
Elk Mound finds itself in second place in the Dunn-St. Croix a game behind the Cardinals. The Mounders will have another busy week of play which began Monday, February 1 with a home contest against Durand followed the next evening by Elmwood/Plum City who comes to Elk Mound. On Friday, February 5 Elk Mound goes to Glenwood City and then to Boyceville next Monday, February 8 before hosting Mondovi on Thursday, February 11 in the regular-season finale.
Although the Panthers haven’t had a chance to play a lot of games due to some COVID-19 problems, it didn’t seem to show as they finished with the eight-point win.
Ryan Bohl and Kaden Russo both knocked down a pair of triples in the first half for the Mounders but the Panthers led 26-18 at the half.
“We got off to a scorching start,” Mounder coach Michael Kessler said. “We were getting stops and putting the ball in the basket. Turnovers killed us in the latter part of the first half as we were pretty careless with the ball.”
Ben Heath scored seven of his game high 11 points with a triple in the mix for the Mounders in the second half but the rest of the team had problems finding the bottom of the basket with their shots. Russo finished with eight points and the team went five-of-10 from the free throw line. Nate Lew led the team in rebounds with seven.
“We battled hard the rest of the game but simply struggled to put the ball in the basket consistently,” Kessler said. “I was pleased with our defensive effort and thought our guys did everything they could on that end of the floor to give us chances to win,” he added.
It was a classic game that went down to the wire between two teams who both had two losses in conference action. Despite the Mounders connecting seven times from behind the arc and shooting 11-for-13 from the foul line, it just wasn’t enough to pull out a win.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 19-11 advantage but the Mounders began pecking away at that deficit and with help from a pair of Mounder triples sandwiched around Lew’s two free throws, the Mounders knotted things up at 21-21. Spring Valley’s Tyler Bowman notched a couple of free tosses just before the half ended and the Cardinals held a slim 23-21 lead.
The Cardinals increased their advantage as the second half progressed but the Mounders just wouldn’t go away and they eventually went ahead 36-35 on Heath’s triple with just over seven minutes to go. They went ahead by four points with around 30 seconds to go on a pair of Lew free throws.
Everything seemed to go in Spring Valley’s favor the final 30 seconds.
With Elk Mound hanging onto that lead, the Cardinals missed a shot but on the scramble for the rebound, a jump ball was called and it went in favor of the Cardinals. They missed another shot but grabbed the rebound and got the ball out to Mike Bauer who canned a triple with seven seconds left.
Spring Valley immediately fouled a Mounder player to send him to the free throw line. The free throw was missed and Bowman took the rebound and flew down court, let the ball fly, then watched as it went through the hoop as the buzzer sounded.
“This was a real heartbreaker tonight,” coach Kessler said. “It was a fun game to be a part of, unfortunately we came out on the losing end. We certainly gave ourselves all the chances in the world to win the game but didn’t capitalize down the stretch. I thought our guys did a nice job on the defensive end and strung together a lot of good stops,” he concluded.
Bohl finished with 15 points and Heath and Lew contributed with 11 each. Bohl and Heath both drained a trio of triples and Lew was seven-for-eight from the foul stripe. Bowman and Ducklow both had 14 points to lead the Cardinals. The team knocked down eight treys and were eight-of-12 from the free throw line.