WORTHINGTON -- Emmanuel Akot came into Thursday’s game focused and ready to go.
And that was bad news for his opposition.
Akot, a sophomore on Minnesota West’s men’s basketball team, was dominant inside against the undersized Minnesota State-Fergus Falls Spartans. Akot, a 6-8 post, scored a game-high 22 points as West earned an 89-77 victory.
“I just got it going,” said Akot, who added eight rebounds. “I was telling myself to get engaged and play defense. For me, it starts on the defensive side, get the O boards, get the D boards and keep playing hard. It was nice seeing all my shots going in to boost my confidence.”
Early on, the Bluejays’ Chris Morales and Jaimon Cheek carried the offensive load. The two combined for 18 of West’s first 19 points as the Bluejays led 19-4.
“I came into this game really focused and really engaged. I was trying to tell these guys from the jump, we can’t let up, we have to beat this team right away,” Akot said. “And that’s what we kind of did, when we started off 19-4. But at the same time, we started settling. Once we do that, that’s when teams like that stick around. I have to give them credit, they made a run, they played hard and they were hitting shots. But we just have to be engaged for all 40 minutes on the offensive and defensive side.”
Behind some long-range shooting, the Spartans made a run at West and trailed by just three points at halftime.
“We just relaxed a little bit, thinking we’re comfortable now that we’re up,” Akot said. “There was still like 32 minutes left in the game, so we have to be engaged all the way through, start to finish.”
Fergus Falls was still within five early in the second half, but a four-point play by Cheek and a basket from Akot quickly pushed the lead to 11 points.
“I was telling the guys that teams are going to go on a run,” Akot said. “Every good team is going to have their run. We just have to keep playing hard from start to finish and that’s what we just did.”
West continued to build the advantage and took a 19-point lead late in the game. The Spartans made a push, but foul trouble limited their aggressiveness. FF played the final 1:23 with four players.
“We did what we were expected to do,” MW head coach Taylor Lupton said. “Sometimes those games are kind of hard to stay motivated, but we were there enough, we got it done.”
Fergus Falls attempted 38 3-point shots, and made 13. West was 11 of 27 from beyond the arc.
“That’s the curse of Fergus Falls. They are a team that historically, they shoot a lot of 3s. As much as they say shooting is contagious, it gets contagious both ways,” Lupton said. “We left shooters open, and on a shooting team, that’s what kind of kept them in it. I know we had a 20-point lead at the end, and it was ugly or whatever you want to call it, but we still got a 10-plus (point victory) to get out of there. That’s all that really matters.”
Cheek finished with 21 points, while Morales had 19 points and 13 rebounds. James Hobson led FF with 20 points.
MW hosts Western Tech on Saturday before three key games next week.
“This one was good,” Akot said. “I keep telling my teammates that it’s on to the next. I respect them so much because they listen. It’s one game at a time. It starts on Saturday and then Anoka on Monday and as we travel next week, we have to take it one game at a time.”
Fergus Falls 34 77
Bluejays 37 89
FERGUS FALLS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Alemadi 4-1-2-16, Zaid 0-5-6-16, Pearson 2-0-0-6, Hobson 3-3-5-20, Baune 0-1-0-2, Taylor 0-1-2-4, Hendricks 4-0-1-13. Totals 13-11-16-77.
BLUEJAYS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Morales 4-2-3-19, Cheek 4-2-5-21, Dixon 1-1-2-7, Williams 1-1-1-6, Akot 0-5-12-22, Stoudemire 0-2-1-5, Heron 1-0-2-5, Tor 0-1-2-4. Totals 11-14-28-89.