SHERBURN - Maple River guard Ben Larson and the Eagles' offense were on fire in the first half, sinking 11 of 17 shots from the floor to build a 33-22 halftime lead over the Class AA, No. 10-ranked Martin County West Mavericks on Thursday night in Sherburn.
Larson scored 13 of his game-high 20 points during the first half to help visiting Maple River capture a 62-46 Valley Conference victory over Martin County West.
The blustery winter wind did nothing but stoke the Eagles' flame in the second half, helping them outscore the Mavericks 29-24 during the final 18 minutes.
LOOKING FOR A TEAMMATE — Martin County West point guard Mitch Sitzmann (middle) looks for an open teammate between Maple River defenders Ben Larson?(3) and Jonah Breiter during Valley Conference basketball action Thursday night in Sherburn. Photo by Leanna Becker
"I thought that starting out strong was big, especially in their gym. They are a tough team, and even tougher here. We shot well in the first half and that was really key," said Maple River head coach Chad Ostermann.
The Mavericks' Cordell Weber sank a 3 from the corner for three of his seven second-half points four minutes and 30 seconds into the second half to cut the Eagles' lead to single digits.
MCW center Kyle Brolsma then caught a pass into the post on the ensuing possession to reduce Maple River's lead to 39-34.
Jake Faber scored a 3 from the wing to keep the Mavericks within striking distance at 42-37 with 10:18 left to play.
The Eagles regained the momentum when guard Jaron Denn stole a Mitch Sitzmann pass and tossed it ahead to center Brian Doering for the easy layup with 9:45 left to make it 46-39.
"We played with a lot more intensity tonight and emotion. We got them out of their screen-flex action on offense and limited them to one shot on offense," said Ostermann.
Maple River had a chance to extend its lead back to seven with 3:45 left to play when Zach Krengel looked to score an easy transition bucket.
Brolsma had other plans, as he sent the shot flying off the backboard, with the rejection being rebounded by Sitzmann.
MCW set up its offense and Weber nailed his second 3 of the half from the corner to make it a four-point game with 3:39 remaining.
A technical foul on the Mavericks' bench over a disputed Maple River foul led to four free throws for the Eagles eight seconds later to make it 53-45 with just over three and a half minutes to play.
Trailing in the final minutes, the Mavericks were forced to foul and the Eagles made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to extend their final margin of the victory to 16. Maple River finished 13 of 16 from the charity stripe on the game.
Both teams traded baskets in the first half, making it 23-18 for the Eagles with five minutes remaining in the opening frame.
"I thought our effort was there tonight," said Martin County West head coach Cliff Anderson. "Give Maple River credit though, they took us out of our game and were able to get the win."
Denn picked up the offensive slack for Maple River in the second half, scoring 10 of his 14 points, with four coming from free throws during the final minutes.
Michael Lewis scored seven points for the Eagles in the second half for 10 total points in the game.
Austin Krumwiede scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Mavericks, while Weber - who scored seven in the second half - finished with 11 points and four rebounds.
Faber finished with 10 points for the Mavericks.
Martin County West (5-1, 4-1 Valley) faces Cleveland in a 4:30 p.m. game in the Windom Classic on Friday, Dec. 28, in Windom.
Maple River (4-2, 2-0 Valley) faces Mankato Loyola in a 6 p.m. game in the Bethany Lutheran College Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 27, in Mankato.
M. River 33-29-62
MAPLE RIVER (62)
Ben Larson 6-9 3-4 20, Michael Lewis 2-5 5-6 10, Jaron Denn 5-11 4-4 14, Brian Doering 4-5 0-0 8, Jonah Breiter 3-6 0-0 7, Cory Schiefelbein 1-3 1-2 3, Zach Krengel 0-2 0-0 0, Tanner Thiesse 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-42 13-16 62.
Kyle Brolsma 2-5 1-4 5, Mitch Sitzmann 1-6 0-0 2, Cordell Weber 4-10 1-2 11, Jake Faber 3-8 1-2 10, Austin Krumwiede 4-10 6-6 14, Dylan Paulson 1-2 0-1 2, Alex Saxen 0-1 0-0 0, Alex Biehn 1-1 0-0 2, Brandon Poppe 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 9-15 46.
3-pointers: MCW 5-19 (Faber 3-7, Weber 2-7); Maple River 7-16 (Larson 5-6, Lewis 1-2, Breiter 1-3). Rebounds: MCW 24 (Krumwiede 7, Sitzmann and Weber 4 each); MR 11 (Krengel 4).