Fast paced No. 1 Four Winds/Minnewaukan bests No. 2 Enderlin in battle of Class B powers
"If we play slow against Enderlin, they're going to kill us."
Friday against No. 5 Beulah, while the Indians eeked out a victory, they never felt like they controlled the pace of the game. The Miners had an answer for just about everything the Indians threw at them in the second half, cutting down a double-digit lead to as low as two points in the second half.
The video session the next day emphasized that the team needed to capitalize on of their biggest strength to beat No. 2 Enderlin: speed. The Eagles, who average a height of 5-foot-9-inches on their 18 man roster, have found a lot of success in the post as they tower above most teams in the state. Outside of 6-foot-10-inch senior center Bronson Walter, the Indians aren't the tallest team.
"When we watched film against Beulah, our weak side defense was extremely slow," Indians head coach Rick Smith said. "We talked in film saying if we're going to play this slow against Enderlin, they're going to kill us. We have to be faster than them and we have to be more aggressive."
In a battle between No. 1 and No. 2, No.1 Four Winds/Minnewaukan's (2-0) speed and aggressiveness proved to be major difference-maker as they would trounce No. 2 Enderlin (2-1) 85-70. Four Winds' controlled both ends of the court as they would force 32 Eagle turnovers and see junior guard Jayden Yankton (24 points) and senior guard JaeShawn Shaw (19 points) lead in scoring.
"We, unlike last game, controlled the tempo tonight," Smith said. "Our defense was faster, scrapper, and forced them into a lot of turnovers. We didn't let them dictate the game with their height. For no fans there, it was a very intense game."
Against Beulah, the Indians saw Walter take control of the game in the post with 22 points, seeing the rest of the Indians score brigade back off a little. It was a bit unusual to see the offense become more centered in that game but against Enderlin, the Indians shooters lit up the scoreboard. Aside from Walter having to go up against 6-foot-10-inch Enderlin junior Joseph Hurlburt, not leading the offense as he did a few days prior, Four Winds shooters jumped back into a rhythm.
Yankton and Shaw led to charge on offense but got a helping hand from senior forward/guard Caelen Lohnes, who finished with 14 points, and Walter, who would finish with 10 points. Yankton's efforts stood out in the first half where he would down 12 from the field and shoot 3-5 from the line for 14 points in the half. Shaw cleaned up in the second half, downing nine from the field and shooting 3-3 at the line for 12 in the half.
It took a little bit of a kick to get the Four Winds offense going, but the Indians showed that their depth on the score sheet is very much intact.
"Lohnes and Shaw were tentative the last time they played and we talked about that," Smith said. "Maybe they were a little tentative because Bronson was dominating, but they can score. We don't have just one scorer on our team, but we have five guys that can put the ball in the hole. They were more aggressive tonight on the offensive end, especially when they [Enderlin] were trying to put some pressure on us. Yankton, Shaw, and Lohnes just stayed on the attack all night."
The rise in aggressiveness by the Indians and the heightened sense of competition on the line was abundant as four technicals ended up being called in that game. A scuffle for a rebound between Walter and saw Enderlin's Carson Bartholomay trip up Walter with Walter reacted by shoving Bartholomay. The tie-up would result in technicals on both parties with both squads going to the line.
In the late second quarter, an exchange between senior guard Keldon Keja and senior guard Dawson Lemna saw Keja receive a technical for foul language and getting the boot from the game. The Indians will be without Keja against Dickson Trinity on Dec. 29. Smith said it was a competitive game where both teams wanted to get after each other with the game ending with a high level of sportsmanship.
"You leave it out on the floor and that's where it's supposed to stay," Smith said. "These are all lessons that you learn early and hopefully you don't make those mistakes again. In these early games, you learn a lot about your teams and you learn a lot about your players. You make a lot of mistakes and you clean that up. Keldon will be fine, he's our leader, and he sticks up for his players."
Towards the ladder end of the first half, the Eagles began to make a run at a built-up Indians lead. Four Winds would open up the game with a 20-4 advantage, but towards the end of the half, the Eagles would manage to pull ahead on a narrow 26-25 lead. Enderlin's run at the Indians' lead was sparked by the performance of senior guard Danszek Parsons, who would down all 14 of his points in the second half.
As Four Winds' lead began to fade away, a timeout was called and Four Winds went on a much-needed run in what Smith calls "one of the most important stretches of the game". In the final minute and a half of the first half, the Indians would outscore the Eagles 11-3, highlighted by a deep 3-ball from senior guard Jacob LaRock at the buzzer to put Four Winds up eight at halftime.
"I thought LaRock, Yankton, and Shaw made some big baskets for us going into the locker room," Smith said. "It was a little bit of momentum. As we talked about in the locker room, the score has to be 0-0. The third quarter is one of the most important quarters in the game. What you come into out of halftime will dictate the rest of the game. Once we got some easy baskets, the confidence grew."
The momentum built towards the end of the first half rolled with the Indians to the final buzzer as they would continue to rack up the points and rack up the turnover count for Enderlin. Four Winds would outscore Enderlin 26-12 in the third quarter. Alongside the steady hands of Yankton and Shaw, Lohnes and Walter would get into a groove, with Lohnes downing 10 points in the second half and Walter picking up eight points.
The Indians wanted to bring a defense to the court that would stress out Enderlin so much that it would feel like there were seven players on the court instead of five.
"The first thing I wrote on the board tonight is that we have to be a quicker and more aggressive team. If we don't do that, we're going to get beat," Smith said. "We have to be like there's seven of us out there and they [Enderlin] have to think that way. For them to have 32 turnovers, I think we really did a good job on that part."
The Indians get a break for the holidays before they head into another challenge against No. 4 Dickson Trinity in Dickson on Dec. 29. The Titans are sitting in a comfortable spot a 4-0, coming off of a blowout win over No. 6 Shiloh Christian 64-41 on Tuesday. There were things Smith said the Indians need to clean up on, such as free-throw shooting and staying sharp during some time off, but they are looking forward to what is looking like another competitive and fun game.
"We're going to stay sharp in practice and we have another film session coming up, and we have to get back to work in things that we struggle in," Smith said. "It'll be another fun game against Dickson Trinity. We have to continue to work on our defenses and stay sharp on the offensive end because Dickson Trinity gives you nothing easy. They're a very well-coached team and they're going to be ready for us."
No. 1 Four Winds/Minnewaukan vs. No. 2 Enderlin stats
FWM - 20, 19, 26, 20 - 85
END - 12, 19, 12, 27 - 70
Four Winds/Minnewaukan scorers
Jayden Yankton - 24 points
JaeShaun Shaw - 19 points
Caelen Lohnes - 14 points
Bronson Walter - 10 points
Jonah Jackson - 8 points
Jacob LaRock - 5 points
Keldon Keja - 3 points
Jacolby Pearson - 2 points
Free throws: 14-18
Joe Hurlburt - 18 points
Gus Hurlburt - 15 points
Danszek Parsons - 14 points
Dawson Lemna - 9 points
Alijah Dixson - 7 points
Carson Bartholomay - 7 points
Free throws: 13-18