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MENDOTA — If two people went to the Mendota boys basketball team’s regular season finale Tuesday but saw different halves, their stories would be completely different.
The Trojans and Rockford Lutheran were tied after the first quarter and were knotted at headed into halftime. Then the wheels fell off the Trojan horse as they scored two points in the third quarter to help the Crusaders win 80-52 in a Big Northern Conference West Division game.
“I thought we played a great first half. In the second half we came out and missed six layups,” Mendota coach Jan Thompson said. “That just can’t happen —cannot happen. We threw the ball away two or three times in a row and the thing is, they didn’t change anything. They didn’t do anything crazy on us, we just self imploded.
“We stopped flashing a guy to the middle for whatever reason. We didn’t look down the court like we would before and things snowballed on us from there. We made one mistake, then two, then three and before you know it, we went from being down by two or three points to 10, then 12.”
Senior big men Trae Blumhorst and Austin O’Sadnick were the main ingredients behind Mendota’s strong start as they crashed the offensive boards and made smart, interior passes around Lutheran’s four-guard lineup.
O’Sadnick almost had a double-double at the half with 10 points and seven rebounds — which he accomplished by game’s end with 14 and 10 — while Blumhorst had 10 points and five rebounds in the first 16 minutes. Blumhorst finished one rebound shy of a double-double.
“We did a horrible job keeping them off of the offensive glass. I think they had 11 offensive rebounds in the first half,” Lutheran coach Tom Guse said. “You have to credit them, they were hitting the glass hard and we weren’t doing real well at it. Our focus in the second half was to start to guard people and rebound. The effort in the first half was a lot different than the effort in the first half.”
Mendota’s post assets were taken out of the game in the second half as Blumhorst and O’Sadnick combined for six points and seven boards.
While the Trojans (16-12, 3-9 BNC West) were struggling to put the ball in the hoop, the Crusaders’ offense was flourishing.
They sank seven 3-pointers in the first half and had 12 in the game.
Lutheran (22-4) junior guard Thomas Kopelman hit four 3-pointers in the game to finish with 19 points and sophomore Joseph Kellen came off the bench to also knock down four shots behind the arc en route to his 14 points.
The outside shooting spread the Trojan defense to open up the lane for sophomore forward Nate Wieting, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
“We knew it. We’d talked about it all week. We knew that they had two guys who could flat shoot the ball (in Kellen and Kopelman),” Thompson said. “The thing that scares you in a 2-3 zone is it is really designed to stop the penetrators if you can. The problem you run into is you get yourself caught with having to fly out to shooters.
“One particular guy doesn’t have the shooter like they would in a man-to-man (defense) — anybody could have him and you have to see it and recognize it. We didn’t do a very good job of recognizing it. We knew where they were going — we practiced it — we just didn’t flow to those areas the right way.”
The Trojans open the postseason at 6 p.m. Monday against Sterling in the Class 3A Rock Falls Regional.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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