—by Todd Thorson

The Roland-Story girls and boys basketball teams each split their two scheduled games last week, the girls defeating Saydel 49-43, but falling to PCM 61-32 on Tuesday (Jan. 21) and Friday (Jan. 24) night, respectively. The boys, on the other hand, struggled against Saydel, losing handily by the score of 54-32 and then rebounded for an impressive win over PCM 51-45. The match-ups were all on the road. The Norsemen took on rival Gilbert last night (Tuesday) in Story City.

Girls Basketball

R-S 49, Saydel 43

The Norsemen girls avenged their second earlier season loss in a week by downing Saydel 49-43. The first time around, back on December 10, the Norse dropped a 40-31 decision at home to these same Saydel girls; a game in which Coach Justin Morton called their low point of the season.

"In our first meeting we really didn’t play with much energy or intensity," said Morton. "Going into this game we knew we had to play with more energy and intensity, and be ready for a very physical game."

Saydel came out in a box-and-one defense against the Norsemen’s top scorer Natalie Vance, but they didn’t stay in it for very long once the Norse girls were able to go inside and also hit some perimeter shots. The first quarter ended with R-S in front 15-12. The lead stayed at three at halftime 25-22.

"We came out in our 1-3-1 zone defense and Saydel came into the game with (only) a total of 18 three pointers made," stated Morton. "Most of their field goals are off of penetration. They came out and hit two three pointers right away and (hit) some other perimeter shots to keep them in the game. We (ended up) switching to our man defense and did a pretty good job of limiting their second chance points."

With the officials calling a really tight game, fouls started to pile up on the Norsemen in the second half. Coach Morton promptly switched back to their zone defense for part of the third quarter. By the start of the final period the lead was only two, 37-35, in favor of the Norsemen.

Saydel managed to finally tie the game late in the fourth quarter. But Brittany Hammes hit a key three pointer to give the lead back to the Norse. It also put the momentum back in Roland-Story’s favor.

"That three pointer really ended up being the difference in the game," commented Morton. "Saydel was starting to get the momentum late and Brittany’s shot took that away and gave us the momentum we needed to finish the game and come out with the win."

In the end a total of 47 fouls were called in the game - 24 on the Norsemen. The Norse, however, struggled at the line, hitting only 13 of 26 free throws. Fortunately, Saydel was even worse, making only 12 of 30; otherwise the score could have been closer.

Natalie Vance led the Norse with 19 points. Taylor Olson managed 10 points. Alexa Whipple and Brittany Hammes each posted six points.And Kirsten Waline added five. The Norse were 15 of 41 from the floor for 37 percent.

"Offensively, we didn’t shoot the ball great," said Morton, "and we missed a lot of free throws. We usually shoot in the mid-60 percent range with our free throws, and we shot (only) 5o percent tonight. Kirsten (Waline) hit a couple of big shots for us. It was nice to see her being aggressive and playing with confidence on offense."

Coach Morton told his girls after the game that he thought the victory wasn’t their prettiest win of the year, but that it was perhaps their best. "We never gave up and we made the plays we needed to make to come out on top," he added.

PCM 61, R-S 32

Coming off a hard fought win over Saydel, the Norse managed to play one of their worst games of the season against PCM on Friday night in Monroe. The Norse hung tough with the Mustangs through the first quarter of play, but then fell apart after that, trailing 28-14 at halftime.

"It seemed like we thought we could show up and PCM would just fold like they did the first time we played them," said a disappointed Coach Morton. That first time around happened to be a 69-60 victory for the Norsemen. This contest, however, was nothing close to replicating that feat.

By the end of the third quarter the lead had grown to 41-21, and was, for all practical purposes, over with. The Norse fizzled down the stretch, eventually losing by 29, 61-32. It was pretty much the first time all season that they had not fought through their adversity to finish the game strong despite the outcome.

Natalie Vance led the Norse with 11 points. Taylor Olson added seven. Traci Marienau totaled four points, followed by Brooke Staker with three, Samantha Janrvin, Alexa Whipple and Bridget Concannon each scored two points, and Kirstin Waline pitched in a free throw.

PCM put up 68 shots on the night, to just 38 for the Norsemen, as second chance points were quite frequent for the Mustangs.

"Defensively, we had some good moments," remarked Morton, "but we’re not going to win many games giving up 61 points. With a team like PCM you have to make them earn everything offensively. I thought we gave them too many easy looks and shots tonight to limit their scoring. Offensively, we really struggled to get going. Many of the girls were apprehensive and timid, and you can’t be like that when your opponent runs a 1-3-1 zone on you."

Coach Morton did, however, have faith in his Norsemen girls, knowing that they would bounce back in their next game against rival Gilbert; which was held last night (Tuesday) in Story City. "It’ll take much improved focus, energy and concentration on our part to make that happen," he remarked. The Norse, having lost three out of their last five, took a 6-9 record into their contest with Gilbert.

Boys Basketball

Saydel 54, R-S 32

The Norse boys had one of their worst shooting performances of the season against Saydel (6-7) last Tuesday night (Jan. 21) on the road. Saydel took advantage by having one of their best games. The home team came out on fire in the first quarter, hitting five three pointers in a row, including three from way beyond the arc. By the end of the first quarter it was 19-8 in favor of Saydel.

The Norsemen picked up their defense in the second period, but still struggled with their shots, trailing at the break 29-17. Saydel then kept up the pace, opening the third quarter on a 7-1 run, and they pretty much never looked back from there, out-scoring the Norse 17-3 to take a commanding 46-20 lead into the final period. R-S played better in the fourth quarter defensively, out-scoring Saydel 12-8, but the damage was already done in the 54-32 loss.

The Norsemen shot only 25 percent from the floor (10 of 38). Saydel finished at 50 percent on 22 of 44 shots, including 8 of 11 from three point range. The Norse hit only 2 of 9 threes.

Ben Clark and Zach Hovick led the Norsemen with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Colin Greene had three, and Nick Ahrens and Tyler Hovick pitched in two points. Saydel also out-rebounded the Norse 31-18.

"Saydel really came out and set the tone right from the start," said Coach Darrin Berggren. "We never really recovered from the first four or five minutes when they built a quick double digit lead. We really struggled tonight hitting shots and getting anything going offensively. I was disappointed in how we let the shooting percentages affect the game so much. We need to do a better job of controlling what we can control than what we did tonight. We have shown great focus and effort all year, and I have no doubt we will bounce back from this."

R-S 51, PCM 45

Coach Berggren was right, the Norsemen did bounce back, leading start to finish in disposing of PCM at Monroe last Friday night (Jan. 24) 51-45. It was PCM’s first conference loss at home and it knocked the Mustangs out of first place in the HOIAC.

The Norse started out strong, building a 14-4 lead six minutes into the game. Zach Hovick sparked the resurgence, scoring eight points in the first period, including a fine three point play, to push the R-S lead to 20-8 after only eight minutes of play.

The second quarter saw things slow down a bit offensively for the Norse, as the score was still 25-14 with three minutes left in the half. The Mustangs out-scored R-S 6-2 in the final minutes to trim their deficit to 27-20 at the break.

PCM came out in the second half with more intensity and forced the Norsemen to turn the ball over on several occasions. By the end of the third quarter the R-S lead was down to three at 35-32. Zach Hovick scored all eight of the Norsemen’s third quarter points.

"Zach really put the team on his back offensively in the third quarter," Berggren said, "and he made some great plays (too)."

The Norse pushed the lead back up to seven with four minutes to go, but found themselves in foul trouble down the stretch. Three starters - Zach Hovick, Adam Shorkey and Nick Ahrens - all had four fouls as the game was winding down toward crunch time.

R-S was able to take care of the basketball, however, in the final minutes, and they made their free throws, as they held off the Mustangs, 51-45.

"This was a huge win for our guys and our program," said a pleased Coach Berggren. "The guys really responded to the challenges that were laid before them this week, and (they) beat a very good team in a very tough environment. We had a lot of guys step up at different times and really contributed to the victory."

Leading the way for the Norsemen was Zach Hovick with 25 points. Ben Clark scored 10. Adam Shorkey posted nine points, followed by Alex Urbanek with three, and Sam Miller and Nick Ahrens added two each. Dillon Bruxvoort led PCM with 19 points.

The Norse shot much better than their last outing, hitting 17 of 36 from the field for 47 percent. R-S held PCM to 35 percent shooting on 18 of 52. The rebounding was even at 31-31, with Zach Hovick hauling down eight for the Norse.

"Defensively, we did a great job all night identifying scorers in the high post and running the baseline," added Berggren. "We held their leading scorer to eight points after he had been averaging around 25 the last two weeks."

The victory was also an important one for the Norsemen, as they locked up the #2 seed in the 2A District pairings, earning them a first round bye in the process. It was PCM’s fourth consecutive loss after going 10-0 to start the season.

"Our kids really overcame a lot of things that went against them the last four minutes of the game," concluded Coach Berggren. "I am veryproud of how they persevered and did the things they needed to do to get the win."

The Norse boys took on Gilbert last night (Tuesday) in Story City, before hosting Colfax-Mingo on Friday night (Jan. 31). Four games in five days, including three on the road, highlight the following week, before the regular season ends on Feb. 11 at home against CMB.