Growing all-around offensive effort boosts No. 4 L/E/M past New Rockford-Sheyenne
Cardinal seniors Simon Romfo, Grant Romfo, and Jagger Worley have attracted a lot of attention around the region. The trio has led the Cardinals to an 11-1 run in the regular season and continue to steam ahead as the post-season nears. However, as the Cardinals fly higher, opponents have begun to key into the trio.
Opposing coaches game in and game out have made their focus to stop the Romfo's and Worley. Against Four Winds/Minnewaukan on Tuesday was the first time this season the opponent had tapped into the Cardinals' inner triangle. Two games later, not only is the trio continuing to pump up the scoreboard, but those around them are stepping up into a bigger role.
After defeating North Star/Starkweather on Friday, seeing nine players break onto the scoresheet, No. 4 Langdon/Edmore/Munich (11-1, 3-0) was moving the ball around the roster once again. With L/E/M's "big 3" getting a lift from those around them, the Cardinals were able to avoid a late-season upset from New Rockford-Sheyenne (9-5, 5-1) 55-51.
"There were more guys involved in the scoring tonight and we need it," Cardinals head coach Andy Haaven said. "We can't rely on two or three guys for the rest of the season. We need everybody involved, looking to score a be a threat on the floor. We've been working on it and it's slowly been getting better. Time will tell if it works for us."
The active scoring numbers may have not been as high as they were a night prior, but the Cardinals broke seven players on the score sheet, seeing sophomore Marcus Kingzett play a major role in the teams overall rise, finishing with eight points and tying for the Cardinals highest 3-point shooting margin with two.
Inside the triangle, L/E/M's trio continued to put up team-leading numbers, with Simon leading the effort with 16 points, followed by Grant with 14 and Worley with 12. Both Worley and Grant had a pair of 3-pointers to matchup with Kingzett's total in the finish. While still putting up the Cardinals' leading point total, Simon said that the overall team effort was noticeable.
"They stepped up and hit some big shots tonight," Simon said. "I think we're going to need that going forward, especially against better teams, and New Rockford is a good team too. We're going to need that in bigger games."
The support was one that came in handy as the offense slowed down on both ends of the ball, mainly to defensive adjustments on both sides of the court. The Rockets continued to use their height advantage against L/E/M while the Cardinals adjusted the NR-S' trio of seniors Evan Ulrich, Jonny Grann, and junior Evan Berglund.
As trifectas matched up, the Rockets had at least a 2-inch size advantage on the Cardinals. In close, Ulrich, who is 6-foot-7-inches, stood 3-inches above Worley the Cardinals' tallest player, and they took advantage of that. Bergland was NR-S' go to under the net as he would drain eight points from the field and shoot 2-3 from the line in the first half. He would finish with a team-high 16 in the game.
Following Bergland was Grann, who found ways to drive the lane and drain shots from outside the arc as he finishes with a team-leading three 3-pointers for 15 points. Ulrich would hit L/E/M early on the scoring front, laying in eight points from the field and shooting 4-4 from the line for 12 in the first half alone.
"We had a good height advantage on them, so we wanted to pound it in early," Rockets head coach Tyler Cook said. "We did a good job of it in the first half, but in the second half they made a few adjustments and we didn't get as many looks down low."
L/E/M's adjustment was huge as they were able to knock down the Rockets offense, while NR-S was limiting theirs. Ulrich was limited to two points in the second half and Grann would hit one 3. Bergland would lead the scoring in the second half, with a score from the field at 2-2 shooting at the line.
On the other end of the court, while the scoring did get knocked down to the Cardinals trio, Kingzett's five points in the second half were the difference in the game. He would drain his second 3 and shoot 2-2 at the line to cap off his performance. L/E/M's offensive pace may have slowed down in the second half, but their defensive adjustments were just enough for an edge to win.
"In the first half we were kind of playing behind them, and we should've switched a little earlier," Simon said. "I think we made good adjustments after halftime to kind of front them and put a little more muscle against them. I think that worked pretty well."
Similar to most of the Cardinals' close finishes, it ended with them at the line. Against then No. 8 Rugby and No. 6 Dunseith, it was one of the Romfo's that was ending the game at the line. While it wasn't the cleanest of shooting at the line, seeing Grant and Simon combine for 1-2 in the final seconds, free-throw shooting has been a lock-in tight game situations for L/E/M.
"Generally our guys, Simon and Grant especially, are really good from the free-throw line, so the fact that each of them missed the front end of a bonus tonight is just shocking," Haaven said. "It happens and you just got to battle through. We're pretty comfortable sending our guys to the free-throw line. If we can get to the line at the end of the game, we're in pretty good shape."
Still sitting at the top of the region and state standings, the Cardinals' expansion into their bench, which goes about six deep, could give L/E/M an even bigger edge as the postseason nears. A handful of situations did arise where L/E/M did look to its bench for support. Worley would sit for a few minutes after committing his third foul and Goodman spent a bulk of the game on the bench as he committed four in the first half.
"That's what your substitutes are for," Haaven said. "They need to come in and fill those spots, and I think they did pretty well."
There's still very much a learning curve on the Cardinals' roster, having the bulk of the roster playing their first career varsity games and the trio who have been charging the Cardinals for a few years. Haaven said it's about cycling the young guys through to help them learn and grow. It's not the Cardinals' focus to base their offense around one guy, but have involvement from everyone on the court.
As for the Rockets, they continue to be a squad that is so close to being one of the controlling forces in the region. They stuck with No. 2 Four Winds/Minnewaukan for three quarters and narrowly fell to L/E/M. To add even more to that aspect, they lost to No. 6 Central Cass by only a point.
Despite the losses, NR-S is building confidence off of close finishes and Cook said that these finishes teach his squad that the next time they could possibly meet these teams, they could be on the winning side of the scoreboard. The Rockets opponents do dip into the midrange and lower part of the district and region standings before the end of the regular season but meet up with a rolling Region 2 Hatton/Northwood squad on Feb. 9.
"We have to find a little more depth in these final games before districts," Cook said. "We need to get these guys a little more rest because we're getting a little more run down in having guys play 32 minutes a night."
For L/E/M, they're looking to keep building and driving as more and more is on the line as they go deeper into their season. The loss to Four Winds is one they want to build their confidence up from and so far, the Cardinals are continuing to rise to the occasion.
"I think we just have to keep our intensity up, not only in games but in practice," Simon said. "We have to play really good defense, rebound and on offense, we have to make good shots and keep the ball moving."
No. 4 Langdon/Edmore/Munich 55, New Rockford-Sheyenne 51
Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 22, 15, 10, 8 - 55
New Rockford-Sheyenne - 16, 19, 7, 9 - 51
Langdon/Edmore/Munich (11-1, 3-0) -- S.Romfo 6 1-3 16, G. Romfo 3 2-3 14, J. Worley 3 0-0 12, Kingzett 0 2-2 8, Tetrault 0 0-0 3, Goodman 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 5-8 55.
New Rockford-Sheyenne (9-5, 5-1) -- Berglund 6 4-5 16, Grann 2 2-2 15, Ulrich 5 4-5 14, Jensen 2 0-0 4, Walford 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 10-12 51.
3-pointers: Langdon/Edmore/Munich 8 (G. Romfo 2, J. Worley 2, Kingzett 2, S. Romfo 1, Tetrault 1). New Rockford-Sheyenne 3 (Grann 3).