Despite trailing by as much as 16, the LRSC men's basketball team walk away with a 94-83 advantage over conference foe Williston State College.
Down 12 points at half, there weren't tons of adjustments talked about in the locker room of the Lake Region men's basketball team Wednesday evening. Getting back in the game wasn't an issue of changing defenses or installing new offensive sets. Instead, second-year head coach Jared Marshall talked to his team about one attribute it needed to show in the second half.
"Toughness," he said. "If we were going to make a comeback, we needed to be the tougher basketball team. Our team lost that battle in the first half, but to get back in the game we were going to need to change that."
With a different energy level displayed than in the first 20 minutes, the Royals dominated second-half play. A 60-37 advantage in the final stanza catapulted the squad to a 94-83 victory over a salty Williston State College team at the Devils Lake Sports Center.
A huge boost for Lake Region State College in the second half as the team began to make stops to put halts to potential stretches by its opponent.
Giving up large scoring runs to opponents has plagued LRSC a bit this season.
That was the case in the first half as the Tetons scored 15 of 17 points late in the first half to give the squad a 16-point lead.
It looked as if an 8-0 stretch would be a turning point in the second half for Williston State College as the team built its lead from one point to nine. The true momentum swing, however, took place minutes after as the Royals fought their way back into the game. Marshall noted that the ability to put a stop to the Teton's scoring burst showed a lot about his team.
"We have been spending a lot of time this week talking about being able to recognize a run by the other team. The best way to stop a run is to make stops defensively," the coach said. "Tonight in the second half, we did that. Our guys did a nice job of staying tough and denying them in key situations. It was great to see."
The second half was a sign of maturity that has continued to develop for the youthful LRSC team, the coach said.
"We are learning," Marshall added. "There were games earlier this season that we would have let a small run snowball into a large one. I think our guys see what it takes to close out games. For us, it's been important to try and reach that right energy point. You don't want to be high or too low and I thought that was great in the second half."
With the victory, Lake Region State College improves to 13-6 on the season and 2-0 in Mon-Dak Conference play.
It was a tight game early on as both teams battled to find an offensive flow. The late 15-2 run for the Tetons opened things up going into the half.
"Williston came out really strong in that first half. They were boxing out, playing defense and rebounding," Marshall said. "Give them credit, Williston was the much tougher team in that first half. They are a very good basketball team."
The Royals scratched and clawed their way back into the game during the second half. A long three by Cedric Boone along with a bucket by Harvey Barr and a jumper by Jordan Bolton got the team within four points early in the second half. LRSC freshman Nic Fassos nailed two free throws to get within one.
Williston State College went on a run as Shaquille Harris and Tyrese Williford added buckets to give the team a 62-53 advantage. Using big defensive stops and efficient shooting, LRSC battled its way back. Jayson Edwards added a layup to get the team going. Then a three by Bolton and back-to-back trey by Rennie got the Royals within one.
Teton freshman Hayden Sadowsky made a three of his own which was countered five seconds later by Bolton to make the score 68-67 in favor of WSC. The two teams exchanged threes again as Bolton and Williston State College's Michael Vandall each nailed shots from beyond the arc. A jumper by Vandall gave his team a 73-72 advantage.
It would ultimately be the final lead of the night for the Tetons as Boone completely took the game over. The freshman guard from Minnetonka, Minn., found his groove in a big way. A steal and a bucket by him gave the squad a one-point lead. He followed it up with back-to-back buckets, with assists, making the score 78-73 in favor of the Royals with 3:12 remaining.
It was Harvey Barr's turn with a putback to extend the lead to seven. LRSC took its largest advantage of the night at 82-73 when Boone nailed another jumper.
Williston State College did its best to battle back, but it wasn't enough. Free throws by Boone, Rennie, Fassos and Bolton ultimately helped the home team seal the deal and earn a 94-83 triumph over a strong conference foe.
One telling statistic was from the free-throw line. Lake Region State College finished the game 22-of-24 from the charity stripe. In the second half, the squad was perfect nailing all 20 of its attempts. Getting to the line was one of the goals for the Royals going into the second half.
"We got to the line only four times in the first half. That is unacceptable," Marshall said. "I challenged the guys to be more physical and take to the basket in the second half. They responded and those free throws made all the difference in the world."
Boone had a gigantic game for the Royals. He finished with 36 points on 13-of-20 shooting including 6-of-12 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 at the line. Bolton chipped in with 21 points including three treys. Rennie added 15 points and five assists. Barr just missed out on a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds. Fassos netted eight points while Edwards added six to round out LRSC.
"It's a huge win against a really good opponent," Marshall said. "I thought it was just a great game. Give credit to them, they really got after it. I know they are going to give us another tough game at their place."
Lake Region State College looks to make it three straight conference victories Monday against Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont.
"Each year, this is a big road trip for us. That's a long way to go and we will be playing a tough opponent," the coach said. "We know we will have to bring our best to come away with a win.