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Fergus Falls hands Minnesota West 5th consecutive loss

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Minnesota West's Dan Stryzinski skies under the hoop for a reverse layup during Saturday's men's college basketball game against MSCTC-Fergus Falls in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- Josh Van Duyn has come a long way this season.

A 6-foot-8 center on Minnesota West's men's basketball team, it was evident how much he has improved in Saturday's Southern Division basketball game against Fergus Falls.

The freshman scored a team-high 17 points to go along with nine rebounds in the Bluejays' 93-71 loss.

"I think Josh Van Duyn wishes we had 10 more games," Minnesota West head coach Justin Heckenlaible said. "He was a real bright spot (Saturday). If he continues to improve like he has from day one in practice to today, and if we can have those leaps this offseason and the beginning of next season, he has a very, very bright future ahead of him."

Coming to West from Colman, S.D., Van Duyn needed time to adjust to the size and speed of the college game.

However, facing a tall team in Fergus Falls, Van Duyn held his own.

"At first I was a little intimidated," Van Duyn said of the beginning of the season. "Coming from a Class B school, I had to get used to playing against guys just as tall as me."

Van Duyn has been playing well as of late -- culminating in Saturday's career-high scoring performance.

"I started to get more confidence three weeks ago," Van Duyn said. "I only scored six points, but I didn't shoot that much."

The confidence showed Saturday.

Van Duyn finished the game 7 of 11 from the field and 3 of 5 from the free-throw line. Of his nine rebounds, six were offensive.

"He's starting to get more physical and figuring out what he needs to do," Heckenlaible said. "That's the biggest thing is that big guys take a little longer to figure things out, and I'm very encouraged by his development. His upside is very good right now."

Van Duyn scored seven of the Bluejay's first nine points in the second half with the help of his newly-acquired hook shot and low-post moves.

"At beginning of season, I didn't have a hook shot," Van Duyn said. "But I've been working on it all season."

Van Duyn scored a basket early in the game, giving MW a 6-5 lead, and later, his free throws tied the score at 11-all.

"He's a great kid, he's coachable, works hard and shows up everyday and does what we ask him to do," Heckenlaible said. "We've given him the drills and the things to do, and credit to him with how hard he's worked to develop that. He didn't have those types of low-post moves. He knows he needs to gain weight and get stronger. If he can do those two things and continue to develop his actual game, we're very, very excited about him for not only Saturday, but for next year."

Jordan Buddenhagen (10 points) scored four consecutive points to increase the MW lead to 15-11 seven minutes into the game.

However, the Spartans went on an 18-0 run in the next five minutes to take a 29-15 lead.

"They were very patient, but we did a pretty good job defensively," Heckenlaible said. "They just had some easy layups on our turnovers. They were very, very good ball-moving team against man-to-man, so we knew we weren't going to have very much success going man-to-man. We were hoping they wouldn't shoot well from the perimeter, and they did."

Cory Lesnar (11 points, 10 rebounds) made a shot to end the run, Stevie Statz (10 points) followed with a trey, and Aaron Delaney hit a shot, cutting the lead to 29-22.

The Spartans built the lead, as Wiley Jiles (29 points) hit a pair of treys and Brandyn Frelix (12 points) made a pair of shots as FF had a 48-32 lead at the break.

Van Duyn scored seven points in the first four minutes of the second half, but FF was able to weather the storm and still held a 56-41 lead at the 16-minute mark.

From there, the lead began to grow for the Spartans.

FF went on an 18-5 run to push the lead to 28, 74-46.

"The young guys need to learn from this, and they have to learn how to finish," Heckenlaible said. "The frustrating part of it was that a lot of it was us. We weren't reading the screens and we weren't finishing."

Trailing 79-51, the Bluejays went on an 11-4 run, sparked by a trey from Devon Harrell, and capped by a 3-pointer by Buddenhagen, but after the teams traded baskets, John Johnsrud (18 points) threw down FF's fourth dunk of the day to put the exclamation point on a 93-71 victory.

MW, who won't qualify for the state tournament, will host Ridgewater Saturday in its season finale.

"We'll have the sophomore starts, so our motto will be win one for the sophomores and send them out with a victory," Heckenlaible said. "We want to try to build on what we did today and set the tone for the offseason with the freshman.

"Ridgewater is very similar to Fergus, they have some big guys, they have some shooters and they're already in the state tournament. So it will be interesting to see what each team really comes out and plays like."

FF 48 45 -- 93

MW 32 39 -- 71

FF (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Gardner 0-3-0-6, Vaughn 0-3-2-8, Jiles 7-4-0-29, Johnsrud 0-8-2-18, Neumann 1-2-0-7, Frelix 0-5-2-12, Rikhus 0-1-0-2, Sand 1-4-0-11. Totals 9-30-6-93.

MW (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Statz 2-2-0-10, Lesnar 0-5-1-11, Van Duyn 0-7-3-17, Buddenhagen 1-2-3-10, Delaney 0-3-0-6, Harrell 1-0-0-3, Eichenberger 1-0-0-3, Jones 1-1-0-5, Stryzinski 0-3-0-6. Totals 6-23-7-71.