Wildcats take late win over Jaguars
GRANADA — The Heron Lake-Okabena Wildcats boys basketball team had only one win on the season and lost eight straight games coming into Monday night’s contest.
The team used senior guard Malaki Walker’s sharp shooting and senior Ben Sheldahl’s post presence to slip by the Truman/Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain Jaguars, 71-68.
“I think we took them for granted. They’re a one-win team and I think we played them as if they were a one-win team,” Jaguars head coach Adam Walker said after the game. “They outhustled us to rebounds and loose balls.”
The Jaguars managed an 18-9 lead during the first six minutes of the game, with senior guard Zach Wolter and senior forward Derek Shoen combining for 12 of the team’s points.
Wildcats junior guard Andrew Madsen, however, helped to cut away at the Jaguars’ lead and tied the game at 20 with a bucket in transition with less than 10 minutes to go in the half.
Freshman guard Eli Fest then took a defensive rebound from one end of the court to another for a layup and the Wildcats’ first lead of the game at the 9:18 juncture.
Senior center Mason Maloney responded by banking in a shot off one of Shoen’s team-best four assists for another tie.
The final seven minutes featured nine lead changes and one tie. Down 34-33, Walker hit one of his game-best five 3-pointers to take the two-point lead.
“I said we need to stay on (Malaki) Walker. He was in our original game plan at the beginning,” Adam Walker said. “He’s a 3-point shooter, he’s going to knock them down if he’s open.”
Maloney nailed a layup and Shoen netted a free throw for the 37-36 halftime advantage.
“Derek and Mason are our inside presence,” Adam Walker said. “We worked hard to get them the ball, and when we did, they finished.”
Maloney made the first two baskets as the Jaguars went up, 47-38, to start the second half.
Malaki Walker interrupted the Jaguars’ 6-0 run with another trey. His accuracy from beyond the arc later brought the Wildcats within one for a 56-55 score.
Shoen made good on a 3-point play before senior guard James Schrunk drove through the lane for a shot with 5:31 to go in the game.
Sheldahl singlehandedly erased the Jaguars’ six-point lead in one minute, earning the last two points at the free throw line.
Zach Wolter then went to the free throw line and made both shots for a Jaguars lead.
In the final 90 seconds of the contest, Fest made good on two and-1 situations, allowing the Wildcats the final lead. Fest had with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Freshman center Gabe Villareal intercepted a Jaguars pass and made one free throw at the 10-second mark to seal the three-point victory.
“When we went into halftime, we had 36 points on the board. I was happy with our offense. Defensively, we struggled,” Adam Walker said. “When we came down the court on offense (in the second half), we forced the ball way too much and we let them back in the game at the worst time you could let a team back in the game.”
Shoen marked a game-high 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists, while Maloney went 7-for-11 from the field to tally 15 points. Zach Wolter added 12 points and Schrunk finished with nine points and four rebounds.
Malaki Walker went 5-for-9 from 3-point distance to garner 17 points with eight rebounds, Sheldahl posted a team-high 18 points and Villareal had seven rebounds.
Truman/ Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain (4-8) plays at Madelia at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.
“That’s a winless team. Hopefully, we come in with a little more attitude towards them and not treat them like a winless team,” Adam Walker said.
HERON LAKE-OKABENA (71)
Malaki Walker 5-10 2-2 17, Ben Sheldahl 4-10 10-12 18, Eli Fest 4-11 3-4 11, Andrew Madsen 5-8 1-1 11, Gabe Villareal 2-5 2-4 6, Ethan Koep 2-4 1-4 5, Brandon Hinkeldey 1-4 1-2 3, Tyler Raverty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-52 20-29 71.
Derek Shoen 7-9 6-10 21, Mason Maloney 7-11 1-2 15, Zach Wolter 4-6 4-5 12, James Schrunk 3-4 3-4 9, Paxton Gravlin 3-6 0-0 6, Isaac Johnson 1-4 0-0 2, Quintin Greier 1-1 0-0 2, Cayden Fischer 0-3 1-2 1, Owen Wolter 0-1 0-0 0, Logan Bowers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-45 15-23 68.
3-pointers: Heron Lake-Okabena 5-14 (Walker 5-9, Fest 0-1, Hinkeldey 0-1, Madsen 0-3); TMLGHEC 1-5 (Shoen 1-2, Z. Wolter 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Gravlin 0-1). Fouled out: Shoen (TMLGHEC). Rebounds: Heron Lake-Okabena 31 (Walker 8); TMLGHEC 22 (Shoen 7). Assists: TMLGHEC 9 (Shoen 4); Heron Lake-Okabena 7 (Fest 4). Steals: Heron Lake-Okabena 8 (Fest 3); TMLGHEC 6.