HERON LAKE -- For the first time since the 2018-19 season, the Southwest Minnesota Christian Eagles sustained a loss Friday night in boys basketball.

Red Rock Conference rival Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda rolled to an impressive 60-48 victory over the Eagles, using an intense defense in the first half, and more tough defense in the second half plus the singular talents of their senior leader, Eli Fest.

The host Coyotes converted a 3-point shot on the game’s first possession and took a 22-3 lead over the first eight minutes. Defensive intensity led to turnovers and transition baskets, said HL-O/F coach Colby Pack.

“We knew they were going to make a run, and they got it to five (at the half),” Pack said, “but we never quit.”

Southwest Christian dominated the regular season and postseason for a 29-0 record in 2019-20, but wasn’t able to participate in the state tournament due to its cancellation from COVID-19 concerns. Despite graduating three thousand-point scorers, the Eagles won their first nine games of 2021 before Friday’s loss to the Coyotes.

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Fest finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists. The team relied on him in the second half, said Pack, and the all-purpose floor leader was virtually impossible to guard.

Carter Drent chipped in with 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks for HL-O/F, and Isaiah Schmid added eight points. Sawyer Drent had seven points and six steals. Zach Thier scored seven points, including hitting four of four free throws down the stretch.

Southwest Christian was paced by Hunter Vander Haar and Micah Schaap with 12 points apiece, and Zach Prins with 10.

Pack said his Coyotes were able to amass “quite a few steals early” by using their “good hands.”

Over the past two seasons and more, Southwest Christian became famous for its outstanding and aggressive team defense. But on Friday, they weren’t able to use it to overcome the Coyotes.

“We were able to use our athleticism today. We were the aggressor, and Southwest Christian isn’t used to that happening,” said Pack.

Southwest Christian 26 48

HL-O/F 31 60