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Rebels give Eagles scare, fall 76-73

EDGERTON -- After missing four critical free throws, Southwest Christian center Alex Huisken had a chance for redemption.

"Those first four just wouldn't go in. I really didn't do anything different, but the last four just dropped," Huisken said. "I really wasn't that nervous, but I just knew that I had to get it in. The last four fell when they needed to."

Huisken converted on four straight foul shots to turn a two-point lead into a six-point lead as SWC defeated Murray County Central, 76-73, in a boys' Red Rock Conference basketball game Friday.

"That was a good game; they just played good, hard basketball," SWC head coach Jamie Pap said. "We gave up a few too many easy buckets I thought. They are a scrappy team, and we knew that coming in. Last time we played them, they stuck with us for a good half, and when you play a team for a second time, they make adjustments."

After a 23-point victory earlier in the season, the Eagles (11-1, 14-3) needed every point down the stretch to close out the victory.

"For the most part, in the middle of the first half we had about four trips where we should have had layups and we turned the ball over," MCC guard Paul Counter said. "At the end of the game, that cost us. Most of the second half we stuck with them, but we just came up a little short."

Counter, who is just recently returning from an ankle/foot injury, scored a team-high 17 points, dished out 11 assists, had eight rebounds and six steals, as just four other players scored for the Rebels (5-7, 10-9).

"Paul is a kid that looks for other people first," MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk said. "He's a guy that makes everyone else on your team better. He's hard to guard because he has decent size, fairly quick and has great vision. It's nice having him back from his injury."

Even though SWC took an eight point lead into halftime, MCC's Spencer Grimmius (16 points, four blocks) scored nine of the Rebels' 13 points to start the half, as the lead quickly diminished.

A trey from Brian Everson (13 points) midway through the second half brought the Rebels to within one point, 44-43, but Huisken (19 points, six steals, five blocks) answered with a three-point play to push the lead back to four points.

"It was a very exciting game throughout," Bobeldyk said. "Both teams played really hard and aggressive. We played better than the first time we saw them. But we're still not consistent."

A trey from MCC's Scott Veenhuis (11 points) once again cut the deficit to just one point at 49-48, but once again, SWC had an answer.

This time Tyler Mouw (18 points) hit a pair of treys and had a put back to push the lead back to eight.

"My coaches don't let me play the wing very much, but he told me in the second half to start playing out there," Mouw said. "So I hit a couple of big shots to keep us in the game."

However, MCC answered with a 12-4 run behind a pair of shots from Everson to tie the game at 64-all with just less than three minutes left.

After Huisken missed a pair of free throws that would have given the Eagles the lead, Trevor Holm (12 points) hit a pair of free throws to give SWC a two-point lead.

Huisken then made a key block on defense, and once again found himself at the line, and once again, came up empty twice.

"Normally, Alex doesn't miss a lot of free throws," Pap said. "But you miss that first one and you start thinking about it and then you miss the second and third one. Finally, he made one, and then he made four in a row to end the game."

Still down by just two points, MCC could not come up with a key basket, and Huisken had a steal, and was fouled again.

This time, the 6-6 senior made good on his free throws, and after pulling down a rebound on the defensive end, stepped up to make his fourth consecutive foul shot -- giving SWC a 70-64 lead.

"There was enough time left that I knew that if I missed we'd have time, so I wasn't too pressured to make them," Huisken said. "But it was nice when they did go in."

Mouw and Ryan Pronk each hit free throws to seal a three-point victory.

"At the end, the whole team picked it up too so we could finish it off," Huisken said. "When it was tied, I was getting a little worried, but I knew we could come back and pull it off."

SWC started the game on a run of treys. Holm hit a pair and Tommy Van't Hof hit one as the Eagles jumped out to an early lead.

However, behind the play of Cole Hegstad (16 points, eight rebounds) MCC was able to handle the barrage and trailed 36-27 at the break.

With just one conference loss, SWC will travel to Ellsworth Tuesday night, while MCC hosts Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin Monday.

"We needed a game like this, especially before we head down to Ellsworth Tuesday," Pap said. "Really, we have not had that close of a game in the last few weeks. We needed a game like this to give us a gut check to see what we got."

But even before the game, the Eagles weren't looking past the Rebels.

"We just take it one at a time and we don't want to get ahead of ourselves because then we don't play like we should," Mouw said. "We needed to this to let us know that we need to step it up a little more."

With a chance to earn a share of the conference lead in the balance, SWC will try to avenge a 30-point loss in the first game of the season.

"We're really excited to go down there and play them," Pap said. "I know they are going to be ready, we're playing at their house, and it's going to be a big game."

But even with the hype, taking it as another game might be the key for the Eagles.

"I think we just need to come into it as another game and don't think of it as Ellsworth," Huisken said. "Just come into it like we did tonight, just a regular game and not get too big headed about it."

MCC 27 46 -- 73

SWC 36 40 -- 76

MCC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Veenhuis 3-1-0-11, Counter 2-5-1-17, Grimmius 0-6-4-16, Hegstad 0-7-2-16, Everson 1-5-0-13. Totals 6-24-7-73.

SWC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Holm 3-0-3-12, Huisken 0-7-5-19, Van't Hof 1-1-3-8, Mouw 2-4-4-18, Vander Veen 1-3-0-9, Van Hofwegen 1-0-2-5, Spronk 0-0-1-1, Pronk 0-0-4-4. Totals 8-15-22-76.