EAST CHAIN - Granada-Huntley-East Chain senior starters Trent Stensland, Logan Pytleski, Jared Green and Josh Johanson heeded the pregame words of Mustang assistant coach Jayden Garlick on Thursday night.
"This is the last time as a high school player that you'll get a chance to step onto your home court and play basketball. Make it count," said Garlick, a former GHEC basketball standout.
Stensland and company did exactly that.
STRETCHED?OUT — Granada-Huntley-East Chain forward Trent Stensland (32) and Truman/Martin Luther forward Sam Geistfeld (10) each stretch out to get the hands on a rebound during second-round Valley Conference Showcase basketball action Thursday night at East Chain School. GHEC guard Josh Johanson watches the play. (Photo courtesy of Sue Petrowiak)
Stensland delivered a game-best 22 points, Pytleski neared double-double territory with nine points and nine rebounds, Johanson scored 10 and Green delivered eight points to guide the hometown Mustangs to a 55-43 victory over the Truman/Martin Luther BluejayKnights at East Chain School.
"Our offense wasn't pretty in the first half, but our defense kept us in it until things started to click for us in the second half," said GHEC head coach Scott Chirpich, whose lineup shot 13-for-24 from the field - 54 percent - in the second half to outscore TML, 33-21.
Senior forward Sam Geistfeld, who produced an impressive double-double performance of 20 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, delivered 10 of TML's initial 18 points to help the visitors build an early nine-point edge with 7 minutes left before intermission.
But the hard-working Pytleski ran the hardwood floor to trigger GHEC's 13-4 countering run to knot the game at 22-all by halftime.
Pytleski banked home a layup off a mini-break chance via a Johanson assist before Johanson and Stensland drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to whittle the Mustangs' deficit to one.
Colton Greiner, however, tossed in a trey for TML to restore a 21-17 lead before Pytleski and Stensland pounded the low post for back-to-back baskets to tie the game again.
Geistfeld and Stensland then matched each other 3-ball for 3-ball during the early stages of the second half before the Mustangs steadily built a four-point lead.
Geistfeld converted Alex Weihe's low-post entry pass into a turnaround jumper to pull the BluejayKnights within five with 8 minutes remaining in regulation.
Unfortunately for TML, Green's steal-turned-layup served as the catalyst behind GHEC's ensuing 12-2 surge that put the game out of reach on the scoreboard.
Adam Neumann hit a putback basket for TML, but Pytleski answered with consecutive buckets to widen the Mustangs' margin. Pytleski flipped in a spin-and-scoop in the low post before executing a screen-and-roll play with Green for an 8-footer in traffic.
Josh Wolter then tossed in a 10-footer from the baseline, Johanson converted both ends of a one-and-one situation and Stensland banked home a turnaround leaner to stake GHEC to a 52-37 edge.
Stensland and Green each pulled down seven rebounds for the Mustangs, while Pytleski and Green each distributed three assists.
Granada-Huntley-East Chain (8-11) plays Madelia at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the final round of the Valley Conference Showcase in Alden.
Truman/Martin Luther (10-13) faces Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton at 3:15 p.m. Saturday in Alden in third-round Showcase action.
Stensland 9-13 2-2 22, Johanson 3-7 3-4 10, Pytleski 4-10 1-3 9, Josh Wolter 2-7 0-1 4, Green 3-7 2-5 8, Jake Wolter 1-5 0-0 2, Maday 0-2 0-0 0, Mathiason 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 8-15 55.
Geistfeld 8-16 1-4 20, Aaron Neumann 2-5 0-3 4, Weihe 2-7 0-0 4, Adam Neumann 2-6 0-0 4, Greiner 2-14 0-0 6, Maloney 1-3 1-1 3, Wiederhoeft 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 18-53 2-9 43.
3-pointers: TML 5-26 (Geistfeld 3-9, Greiner 2-13, Adam Neumann 0-4); GHEC 3-16 (Stensland 2-5, Johanson 1-3, Josh Wolter 0-4, Jake Wolter 0-3, Maday 0-1). Fouled out: Adam Neumann. Rebounds: TML 39 (Geistfeld 17); GHEC 33 (Pytleski 9). Assists: GHEC 10 (Pytleski and Green 3 each); TML 6 (Adam Neumann 3). Steals: GHEC 8 (Stensland and Green 3 each); TML 4.
Martin County West 61, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial 59 - Cordell Weber hit a 5-footer in the lane with three seconds left in overtime to cap the Mavericks' second-half comeback to beat the Knights 61-59 during Valley Conference Showcase action on Thursday in Trimont.
Weber, who scored a co-team leading 19 points, also pocketed seven steals for the Mavericks in the win.
Jake Faber poured in 19 points to go along with a team-leading 10 rebounds for a double-double performance for the Mavericks.
Richard Eckmann and Jake Sinn each tallied seven points, while Sinn also grabbed seven boards.
The Mavericks made 12 of 16 from the free throw line, while sinking 23 of 55 from the floor, including 20 of 43 from inside the arc.
Michael Coates scored a game-high 30 points, while Bryson Yackel recorded 16 to help pace the Knights.
The Knights made 11 of 18 free throws in the game.
Martin County West (12-9, 9-2 Valley) travels to play Mankato Loyola in a 5 p.m. Valley Conference Showcase game on Saturday in Alden.
Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (14-9, 9-2 Valley) travels to play St. Clair in a 7:30 p.m. Valley Conference Showcase game on Saturday in Alden.
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown 63, Blue Earth Area 58 - The WEM Buccaneers outscored the BEA Bucs 43-32 during the second half to take the 63-58 nonconference victory on Thursday in Waterville.
Cole Pope scored a game-high 24 points, while his teammate Zac Olson netted 18 to pace WEM's offense.
WEM shot 41 percent from the floor and made 20 of their 28 free throws to help clinch the victory.
BEA's Bailey Olson recorded a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Conor Barnett scored 14 to top the visiting Bucs.
Kellen Jacobs contributed six points and six rebounds for BEA, who shot 50 percent from the floor and made 9 of 11 free throws.
Blue Earth Area (9-13, 4-6 SCC) plays host to Jackson County Central in a 7:30 p.m. nonconference game on Monday in Blue Earth.