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by Marlys Kruger
The Colfax boys began the new year on a sour note by losing 69-33 to the visiting Turtle Lake Lakers January 4, then quickly turned things around two days later by coming from behind for an 82-70 victory at home against the Augusta Beavers. Both games were non-conference games.
24 hours after the Augusta win, the Vikings resumed Dunn-St. Croix Conference action by traveling to Boyceville, and after yet another slow start, came from behind for a 58-42 win.
The Colfax boys are 4-5 overall and 2-2 in the D-SC as they opened a four-game homestand this week beginning with Eleva-Strum Monday evening, Spring Valley will be in town Thursday, followed by Somerset Friday and concluding with a big contest against Elk Mound next Tuesday, Janaury 18.
The Lakers were 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Lakeland West Conference starting the game.The Vikings were 2-4 overall and due to a postponement by Augusta December 20, and not playing any games during the holiday break, that meant they hadn’t faced any competition for 18 days. The result was not pretty as they struggled to get the ball in the basket, especially in the second half, resulting in the lop-sided loss.
Turtle Lake scored the first ten points of the game before the Vikings got on the scoreboard with a Nate Hydukovich layup.
It was 13-2 when Hydukovich scored in the lane again and he drilled a triple to leave his team down 17-7.
The Lakers took advantage of several Viking turnovers and missed shots to up their advantage to 22-7 before Bryce Sikora nailed a shot from long range. Elijah Entzminger connected on a short jumper and Ryan Albricht canned a trey followed by a Jack Scharlau put back and a deuce from Sikora, and suddenly the Vikings were back in the game down just 28-19.
Austin Swanson muscled his way to the basket for a bucket for the Vikings but the Lakers controlled the boards for the most part and didn’t give the Vikings more than one shot and forced them into several turnovers on five straight possessions before Nick Jensen scored from the lane. Jensen then dished a pass to Entzminger who hit a triple, leaving them down 41-26 at the break.
The second half was looking good for the Vikings when Hydukovich scored twice in under a minute to make it 45-30. But it was all downhill from there for Colfax as the old saying goes, “they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn”. They had tons of open shots but the ball rolled or bounced off the rim from under the hoop or from three-point land. The Lakers used that to their advantage and scored 22 consecutive points for a 67-30 lead with 2:24 to go. Kyle Irwin finally nailed a triple from the corner for Colfax and that finished the Viking’s scoring off.
Hydukovich was the only Viking in double figures with 11 points. Colfax made five shots from behind the arc but went to the free throw line just once in the entire game and were 0-for-1.
The Lakers had four players in double figures, led by Blake Thill’s 20 points. Turtle Lake made seven triples and was 10-for-17 at the foul stripe.
It was certainly a tale of two different teams when the Vikings took on the Beavers who play out of the Dairyland Large Conference. The Beavers were 6-3 overall and were well known to have several players who could hit shots from long range. But, Colfax coach Mark Noll had a game plan that seemed to slow down those shooters for a while in the first half.
Entzminger, Sikora and Hydukovich all scored from close range for a 6-4 Viking lead but a Beaver triple and a bucket gave them a 9-6 advantage. The Vikings defense forced a pair of turnovers and they made the best of it with Sikora scoring twice on fast break layups along with a Scharlau deuce to make it 12-10 in the Vikings’ favor. Once again a Beaver triple gave them the lead back before Hydukovich scored in the paint.
Augusta pulled ahead 17-14 and Jensen closed the gap for Colfax with a shot under the hoop, but a pair of Augusta treys sandwiched around two deuces coming off Viking turnovers, pushed the Beaver lead to 27-16. Albricht broke that run with his shot from long range and after a Scharlau free toss and buckets from Entzminger and Jensen along with another Albricht triple, the Vikings were still down 35-27. Sikora knocked down a pair of free throws and the half ended with the Vikings behind by almost the same score as the Turtle Lake game, 41-29.
Coach Noll told his team to keep up the defensive pressure and that would create offense.
“I told the team we had been down by 14 but were back to within 12,” he said. “I said our shots would fall and we had to get out on their three point shooters so they wouldn’t get good looks at the basket,” he added
As mentioned before, this was a different Vikings’ team on the court as they stepped up their defense to create several Beaver turnovers, and took advantage by scoring plenty of points off of them. Sikora pulled his team to within a point at 46-45 with 11:35 to go and Entzminger knotted it with a free toss.
Another Beaver three pointer gave them the lead back but Tristan Lenz hit a couple of free throws and Sikora swiped the Augusta in-bound pass and scored on a layup for a 50-49 advantage.
The Beavers scored on a deuce and free throw but, after Sikora knotted it again at 52-52, Hydukovich took a pass from Albricht’s steal and completed a four-point play with a triple and a free throw.
The Vikings kept the burners on high from there on out and never trailed again.
Albricht drained two more shots from downtown and Scharlau, Sikora, Hydukovich, Jensen, and Entzminger all continued to find the basket as they built a 73-62 lead. Most of the final Colfax points came from the foul stripe with Entzminger, Sikora and Hydukovich combining for an 8-for-16 performance. Hydukovich added the final two points on a nifty fast break reverse layup.
“We kept up the pressure on defense and got a lot of two on ones that led to easy buckets,” Noll said. “By amping up our defense we didn’t allow them to catch and shoot which cut down on their three-point shots,” he added.
Sikora had a career high 21 points with five assists, Hydukovich also had 21 points including 6-for-8 at the foul line and came up with seven steals. Scharlau led the team in rebounds with ten and scored eight points, Albricht scored 15 points coming from five of the teams six triples, Jensen scored eight points and snared six rebounds and Entminger tacked on seven points with a pair of steals.
If the Turtle Lake and Augusta games were a tale of two different Viking teams, this game played out as a tale of two different halves.
The Bulldogs took control early in the first half with a 9-1 lead with Lenz, who had been slowed down by an ankle injury, scoring the Colfax point with a free throw. In fact, Lenz tallied the next three points on a bucket and a free toss to make it 9-4 and the Bulldogs eventually upped their advantage to 16-6.
Hydukovich found the hoop with a fast break layup but two missed free throws along with several shots off the mark added to the Viking woes.
Jensen finally scored from close range and the Vikings caught a break when Boyceville’s starting post player Grant Kaiser drew his third foul with just over four minutes left in the half, putting him on the bench. Hydukovich added a deuce and a free throw seconds later and after an Albricht triple, the Vikings were down 20-19. Simon Evenson drained a basket for the Bulldogs, to up their lead again, but Scharlau hit the boards and scored on a put back. After Kyle Irwin swiped the ball from the Bulldogs, Sikora scored his first points of the game to put the Vikings up 23-22 at the intermission.
The second half belonged to Colfax as they opened it up with an eight-point run. Entzminger started it with two free tosses and Sikora tacked on a bucket via a fast break layup. Kaiser picked up his fourth foul a couple of minutes in and took a seat on the Bulldog bench and Entzminger took advantage of the open lane for two quick baskets and a 31-22 lead.
Colfax continued to use an aggressive trapping press, and the Bulldogs began to wear down, turning the ball over twice. Entminger again drove through the lane for two more layups to increase the lead to 35-24.
The Vikings continued to add points from the paint including shots by Hydukovich and Jensen, and Entzminger added a free throw and it was 40-27 in the Viking’s favor.
The lead went up to 18 points at 48-30 after another Sikora drive through the lane. With just over five minutes left, Swanson came in and scored six of the Viking’s final ten points on three shots in the paint to help finish off the 16 point victory.
The Vikings displayed balanced scoring with Entzminger the only one in double figures with 13 points, while Hydukovich tacked on nine, Lenz and Sikora eight each, Swanson and Jensen both six, Scharlau five and Albricht three. Colfax was 7-for-15 at the free throw line with one trey in the game.
Caden Wold was high man for the Bulldogs with 13 points and he caused plenty of problems for the Vikings with several steals. Boyceville canned three triples and went 7-for-10 at the foul stripe.