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MENDOTA — In sports, people often use the phrase it’s not how you start, but how you finish.
In the Mendota boys basketball team’s case, it started strong and finished strong against Stillman Valley to come away with a 69-54 Big Northern Conference West Division victory Saturday night.
The Trojans held a slim advantage in the opening quarter and then opened things up in the final eight minutes for the 15-point margin of victory.
“I know (Stillman Valley) had a tough game (Friday) night against Christian Life that came down to the end,” Trojan coach Jan Thompson said. “I’m sure we are going to see a different team when we see them next time, but I was happy with how we played tonight.”
Trae Blumhorst got the Trojans started by draining a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and then Austin O’Sadnick connected on a layup to help Mendota to a quick 9-2 lead.
“It was nice to have Trae back tonight,” Thompson said. “He’s been out with an injury and he played very well for us. He is a tough and explosive player and that was no different tonight.”
Connor McNames then showed he is a pretty good 3-point shooter as well as he helped trim the Trojans lead to 15-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The second and third quarters were pretty similar as both teams drove into the lane in the second quarter for short to mid-range jump shots.
Keaton Weber had a couple of nice drives to tie the game at 15-15, and then James Carroll countered a minute later with a fast break layup to regain the lead at 23-19.
Mendota led 31-27 to start the third quarter when both teams got hot from the 3-point line. McNames hit another 3-pointer that cut the Trojans lead to 41-37.
Later, Blumhorst hit a nice up and under as the Trojans led 51-47 heading into the final eight minutes of action.
Mark Prescott hit a 3-pointer of his own in the fourth to extend the Trojans’ lead to 56-45, but it was his defense that impressed his coach most of all.
“I know he hit a couple of big shots, but I was really impressed with his defense,” Thompson said. “We caused a lot of turnovers in the fourth quarter to get that lead up to double digits. I was really happy with the strong defensive effort Mark and others gave. I thought that was a big difference tonight and in the fourth.”
Blumhorst led the scoring charge with 22 points, while James Carroll added 17 points and Prescott added 10.