MENDOTA — The Mendota boys basketball team was very motivated for Tuesday’s Big Northern Conference West Division opener against Oregon.
The Trojans suffered their only loss of the season against the Hawks in the championship game of the Oregon Thanksgiving Tournament.
Mendota got its revenge.
After a slow first quarter, the Trojans used a strong second period to spark a 51-42 victory.
“We used that game (in the Oregon tournament), to win this one,” Mendota senior Trae Blumhorst said. “We’ve been practicing for this one and we just came and we knew we had to get it done. We wanted it more.”
With Blumhorst and fellow starter Evan Carroll on the bench to start the game due to a team rules violation, the Trojans were slow out of the gate.
Mendota turned the ball over on five of its first six possessions and did not score until Blumhorst entered the game and hit a pair of free throws with 3:45 left in the first quarter.
“It started slow, but when we got on that roll, we didn’t let up,” Blumhorst said. “We kept going. I think that’s something that’s been a problem these last few years. We get up and we think that it’s over, but we really put the pedal down (Tuesday).”
The Trojans started the second quarter on a 7-2 run with a post basket by Austin O’Sadnick, a bucket by Bumhorst off an inbounds play and a 3-pointer by Jon Gehm.
Blumhorst gave MHS the lead for good at 18-15 on a three-point play.
The Trojans scored 22 points in the second quarter to take a 26-17 halftime lead.
“With me and O’Sadnick down there, we always have a big mismatch so we knew we had to get the ball inside, and we have some great shooters on the outside,” Blumhorst said. “They couldn’t help off. We knew we had to get it inside and we just rolled from there.”
Blumhorst, who scored a team-high 17 points, had another key three-point play early in the third quarter to stop a 5-0 Oregon run that pulled the Hawks within four at 26-22.
“I’ve said it since the beginning of the year, he’s a great basketball player,” MHS coach Jan Thompson said. “Trae needs to be the leader on our team scoring wise. He needs to be the guy who touches the ball the most. We have other guys who can do stuff, but Trae has got to be the leader for our team. I felt like tonight he really stepped up and did that.”
The Trojans sealed the game in the fourth quarter by making 10-of-15 free throws, including 7-of-8 by Evan Carroll.
Mendota finished 19-of-25 from the charity stripe after hitting just 11-of-26 free throws in its 59-56 loss to Oregon in the Oregon Thanksgiving Tournament final.
“We lost the regional championship last year and lost the championship (in Oregon) because of free throws,” Blumhorst said. “That’s been a big point in practice. We go in before school and everyone has to make 10. We knew coming in that was going to change the game. That and rebounding.”
The Trojans (5-1, 1-0 BNC West) play host to Winnebago at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
“This conference is one of the best in the state,” Thompson said. “Starting off 1-0 is great, but we have a really brutal, tough one on Friday. It’s a huge test with Winnebago coming in here. They are a powerhouse. They’re absolutely loaded. We have to be ready to go.”
Note: The Mendota sophomore team won 45-42.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.