College basketball: West splits with Spartans

Aaron HagenDaily Globe WORTHINGTON -- It was a tale of two games for the Minnesota West basketball teams in a doubleheader against Minnesota State-Fergus Falls on Wednesday. In the women's game, the Spartans came away with a 102-77 victory, but t...

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Minnesota West Bluejay Justin Kruse comes in with a layup Wednesday against M State-Fergus Falls. TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE

Aaron Hagen
Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - It was a tale of two games for the Minnesota West basketball teams in a doubleheader against Minnesota State-Fergus Falls on Wednesday.
In the women’s game, the Spartans came away with a 102-77 victory, but the Minnesota West men avoided the sweep with a 74-49 victory in the nightcap.
If the Fergus Falls men’s team had any thoughts of a second-half comeback, Minnesota West’s Tyler Aquallo squashed those pretty quickly.
The sophomore guard made three consecutive 3-points out of halftime to push the Bluejays’ lead from eight points to 17 en route to a key Southern Division victory.
“My shot was just falling tonight,” Aquallo said. “My teammates found me and passed me the ball. I’m thankful for the teammates too; I couldn’t do it without them. It was kind of indescribable, I was in the zone.”
Aquallo finished with a game-high 30 points, including making eight of 16 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Bluejay defense was able to hold the Spartans to less than 30 percent shooting from the field.
“(Our defense) was a lot better this game than the last couple of games,” Aquallo said. “That’s one thing we’ve been working on a lot in practice and we’re starting to execute on defense better. Our offense is coming through, but defense is what we need to work on.”
Three different players were in double figures for the Bluejays (6-11, 3-4).
“We executed our stuff and got some shots,” MW head coach Justin Heckenlaible said. “That’s what you have to do against the zone, especially the way they play it. We ran a lot of cutters and different things around. Credit to the guys, they did a good job executing. Overall, I was very happy with our effort. I don’t think it was a very pretty first 30 minutes, but the last 10 we executed.”
The Bluejays led from the beginning and took a 28-20 lead into halftime. MW went on a 15-5 run out of the break and never looked back in a convincing win.
“We talked about the first three to five minutes of the half was going to be huge,” Heckenlaible said. “We had that lead and if you let a team hang around, a guy on their team could get hot or we could get in foul trouble. I think that was a big key with how well we came out to start the second half.”
Jordan Chester finished with 11 points on the night, while Justin Kruse scored 16 points and had 12 rebounds, including a thunderous dunk from an off-the-backboard pass from Zech Adams.
“The guys on the bench were yelling ‘backboard,’ and (Zech) put it up there perfectly,” Heckenlaible said. “Justin is one of the most athletic player we’ve had in my tenure here. He does that all the time in practice, so I was happy he got that in the game. And the pass, that’s half the execution, so that was a fun situation.”
The Bluejays are at Western Tech on Saturday, where they will try to exact some revenge from a loss earlier this season.
“Western stole one from us here at home a couple weeks ago, so we have to go there and try to even it up,” Aquallo said.
Fergus Falls 20 49
Minnesota West 28 74
FERGUS FALLS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Kashmark 2-1-0-8, Jackson 1-3-0-9, Desilien 0-4-2-10, Owen 0-1-0-2, Guyton 0-2-1-5, Zimmerman 0-2-0-4, Yohnke 2-1-3-11. Totals 5-14-6-49.
MINNESOTA WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Yelverton 0-3-0-6, Aquallo 8-3-0-30, Adams 0-1-0-2, Nealy 0-1-2-4, Chester 0-4-3-11, Pennington 0-1-1-3, Kruse 0-8-0-16, Koerselman 0-1-0-2. Totals 8-22-6-74.
Entering Wednesday’s MCAC Southern Division game, Fergus Falls was fifth in the league in points per game. But their average will go up after its offensive output against the Lady Jays.
“They are averaging 59 points a game. In 18 games, teams have held them to 59 and they score 102,” MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka said. “I’m kind of speechless right now.”
The Lady Jays (8-10, 2-3) were able to score some points, as four players finished in double figures.
“We should be able to win games if we score 77 points,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “Defensively, I don’t know. They had every kid in double figures. We just struggled, flat out struggled everywhere.”
Dressing only six players Wednesday, each Spartan player scored at least 12 points. Heidi Eggen led all scorers with 25 points. The Spartans shot 57 percent from the field and outrebounded the Lady Jays 49-28.
Taylor Noid led the Lady Jays with 21 points. Breanna Nelson finished with 18, while Dani Hermeling had 11 and Tanner Gunnink finished with 10.
“We didn’t run our plays the way we were supposed to, but we still made 77 points, that’s pretty good,” Noid said. “I usually don’t shoot as much as I did tonight. But we weren’t playing very good, so I just decided to shoot it and they went in.”
The Spartans led 27-23 after the first period, but took a 54-37 lead into halftime.
“We tried to bring it back and put on a press and tried to trap, but it wasn’t going for us,” Noid said. “We should have boxed out a little bit better, we know that. We should have closed out maybe a little bit better too so they didn’t get as many shots off.”
The Lady Jays are at Western Tech on Saturday.
“This game is over,” Noid said. “So we just need to learn from what we did tonight and carry over what we learned into the next game and focus on the games ahead of us and not worry about the one.”
Fergus Falls 27 54 74 102
Minnesota West 23 37 54 77
FERGUS FALLS (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hendrickson 2-4-5-19, Tenneson 1-5-0-13, Eggen 0-11-3-25, Jordan 0-5-2-12, Lien 1-7-0-17, Peohler 0-8-0-16. Totals 3-40-10-102.
MINNESOTA WEST (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Hermeling 3-1-0-11, Nelson 6-0-0-18, Noid 3-5-2-21, Kramer 2-0-0-6, Gunnink 0-5-0-10, Linder 0-1-3-5, Abella 0-3-0-6. Totals 14-15-5-77.

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