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By Marlys Kruger
It has been an excessively busy past few weeks for the Colfax boys’ basketball team with seemingly more games than practices due to the shortened season and having to reschedule some contests. It has led to some peaks and valleys for the team and the end of the regular season ended in one of those valleys.
The Vikings played at Spring Valley Monday, February 8, and although they gave the Dunn-St. Croix Conference champions one of their only two losses earlier in the season, this time it was all Spring Valley as they lost to the Cardinals 74-34. Three days later, they hosted Durand, one of the teams favored to battle with the Cardinals for the conference title. The Vikings struggled in the first half but outscored the Panthers in the second half before falling 73-60 in the regular-season finale.
Colfax finished 6-8 in Dunn-St. Croix Conference action and 6-11 overall. They received a four-seed in the WIAA Division 4 regional and will hosted five-seed Augusta Tuesday, February 16. The Vikings, with a win, will travel to Fall Creek to battle the top-seed and state-ranked Crickets in a Friday, February 19 regional semifinal with the championship set for the following evening, Saturday, February 20.
Colfax managed to take an early lead at 8-4 on a Nate Hydukovich triple, a deuce by Noah Heidorn and another trey, this one from way out by Drew Gibson. But, a nine-point run by the Cardinals gave them a 13-8 lead and the Vikings never recovered.
The Vikings stayed within striking distance with Gibson’s free throw and another bucket by Heidorn and were down 17-11 but a series of turnovers resulted in points for Spring Valley and they quickly went up 25-11.
Caden Erickson broke the run with a shot from the paint then followed with a triple but the Vikings found themselves in a hole at the break, down 30-16.
“Spring Valley is a very good defensive team and we did not handle their defensive pressure very well,” Colfax coach Mark Noll said. “We also had one of our players get into foul trouble which also hurt us.”
Tanner Hoffman banked in a shot from behind the arc for the Vikings and Tristan Lenz scored from underneath to make it 44-21 for the Cardinals. Then another series of turnovers by Colfax resulted in more points by Spring Valley as they increased their lead to 49-21.
Erickson scored from close range, Gibson put in a pair of free tosses, and Lenz and Gibson added deuces before Max Knudson ended the Vikings’ scoring with a triple for the final 40-point margin.
Gibson led the Vikings with eight points while Erickson added seven. The Vikings were three-of-five from the foul line with five triples. Tyler Bowman led the Cardinals with 16 points, and his team made 11-of-17 free throws.
“In the last five weeks, we have had a total of nine practices going into this game,” Noll said. “It has been very hard to grow and work on things we need to work on to keep improving. Most of these practices have either come before a game or just after a game heading into another game,” he added.
It was senior night for the Vikings and they took a 3-2 lead off Hoffman’s triple, but that was the only time the Vikings led during the contest. Durand used an aggressive full court trapping press and the Vikings struggled most of the game getting the ball down the court.
The Panthers pulled ahead 14-3 before Gibson drained a trey then added a short range shot. Gibson canned another trey and Heidorn drove the lane and the Vikings were down 21-13. Heidorn added another bucket but the Panthers had an answer (and sometimes more then one) each time the Vikings scored, they went up 31-15.
Gibson battled under the hoop for his own rebound and scored to break the Panther run, and Heidorn hit back-to-back- buckets to get Colfax within 10, down 31-21. Durand added seven straight points to up their lead again and Heidorn scored in the lane again, putting the halftime lead at 45-23 in Durand’s favor.
“We were struggling to get into our offense because of their ball pressure,” coach Noll said. “We didn’t get back on defense quick enough and they scored some pretty easy transition baskets.”
Colfax came out of the locker room with a lot more energy and scored eight points coming from a Nate Hydukovich bucket, an Erickson trey, a Heidorn free toss, and a Gibson layup. But, the Panthers continued to find the basket in between those shots and were up 51-31.
Heidorn put on a little show with a pair of deuces in the paint and a free throw, and when Gibson was off the mark on a three-point attempt, Heidorn tracked down the rebound and found a streaking Gibson under the hoop who dropped in the deuce. Gibson scored again after rebounding his own shot to close the gap at 55-40. A Hoffman free toss and another Heidorn drive to the hoop to go with back-to-back shots from Hunter Rebak and the Vikings were back in business, behind 61-49 with around three minutes left.
After yet another Durand deuce from the paint, Gibson canned another shot from long range, but the Vikings needed to foul in hopes of getting the ball back. Foul they did, sending the Panthers to the charity stripe. After a Hydukovich triple, Durand went to the charity stripe four times and hit six free tosses. In between those shots however, Gibson scored off yet another offensive rebound, then ended his night with a bank shot for his fourth shot from downtown on the night.
“We came out in a different mindset and hit some shots early on,” Noll said. “When you start hitting shots your confidence goes up and our defense was making plays. We outscored Durand in the second half because our kids didn’t give up and I am proud of them for that,” he added.
Gibson led all scorers with 24 points and Heidorn added 19. The Vikings drained eight triples and were three-of-seven from the foul line. Caden Berger led the Panthers with 19 points and his team made six shots from long range and were 15-for 23 at the charity stripe.