—by Todd Thorson

The Roland-Story boys opened their 2013-14 basketball season with a tough loss against a strong Iowa Falls-Alden outfit last Monday night (Dec. 2) in Story City. But they managed to regroup to post two impressive wins over conference foes Greene County and North Polk on the road.

Second year Head Coach Darrin Berggren was pleased with his players’ efforts this first week, having played three games in five days right out of the gate: "I have been really impressed with how well our kids have been playing together, and how hard they played this first week," he said. "If we can keep up our effort and unselfishness a lot of good things will happen this year."

Iowa Falls-Alden 66, R-S 49

Iowa Falls’ Casey Schlatter was the leading scorer in the state last year, and this year he returns for his senior season before moving on to Drake University next year. The Norsemen managed to keep the prized recruit Schlatter at bay in the first half last Monday night, holding him to just 10 points with a great defensive effort. But Schlatter broke out in the second half, pouring in 25 of his 35 points after the break, to help his Cadets to a 66-49 victory over the home team Norsemen.

IF-A’s Quinn Taylor made four of five three pointers as well, which proved to be the difference in the game. The Norse trailed 9-5 at the quarter break and 28-19 at halftime.

In the second half, the Norse had a couple of chances to cut the lead to four or five points, but they never could get closer than seven. Iowa Falls outscored the Norse 22-14 in the fourth quarter. The final margin of the game (12 points), however, was the largest lead IF-A could get on the pesky Norsemen.

"We tried to speed up the tempo by pressing," said Berggren, "and we got the game more up tempo, but (we) just couldn’t hit from the perimeter, as we finished 5 of 32 from the three point line."

That made it very difficult for the Norse on offense, as the Cadets became more aggressive in their zone defense, especially with the 6 ft. 8 in. Schlatter, who can protect the basket very well down low.

Senior Zach Hovick led the Norsemen with 19 points, including three of the five R-S three pointers. Zach also had six rebounds. Adam Shorkey followed with 10 points. Ben Clark posted six points, dished off eight assists and swiped three steals. John Barclay managed five points. Sam Miller and Nick Ahrens also grabbed six rebounds each, as the Norse held tough in the rebounding department. IF-A out-rebounded the Norse by only one 33-32.

The Norsemen were only 19 of 61 from the field for 31 percent. IF-A hit 50 percent of their shots, 22 of 44, and also hit 16 of 21 free throws. R-S was 6 of 10 at the line for a 10 point discrepancy compared to their opponents.

"I thought we really battled and played hard the entire game," concluded Berggren, "but we just couldn’t make enough plays in the second half to get all the way back in it."

R-S 70, Greene County 56

The Norse boys broke open a 13-9 contest against Greene County with a 13-4 run to start the second quarter, and opened up a comfortable lead en route to a 70-56 victory Tuesday night (Dec. 3) in Jefferson.

The Norsemen shot much better from outside the perimeter, hitting eight three pointers. "We (also) did a good job of identifying shooters early," stated Coach Berggren, " (and managed to) keep them off the offensive glass, (which enabled us to) create turnovers and get easy baskets."

A double digit lead was kept in tact throughout the second half, coming off a 31-16 intermission advantage. The Norse took care of the ball and also hit their free throws down the stretch to win easily by 14, 70-56.

Nearly the entire varsity squad saw action on this night, as Zach Hovick once again led the way with 19 points. He also took down five rebounds. Ben Clark and John Barclay followed closely behind with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Adam Shorkey added eight points for the Norse. Clark also had nine assists. Riah Nelson led GC with 18 points.

The Norse out-rebounded GC 31-20, with Shorkey hauling down seven and Clark grabbing six. The Norsemen hit 24 of 44 from the floor for an impressive 55 percent. Greene County was 22 of 50 for 44 percent.

Greene County cut the lead to 50-38 at the end of the third quarter, but could not get any closer.

"It’s always good to get a conference win on the road," commented Berggren, "and I thought we did a great job bringing energy and focus coming off a tough loss the night before."

R-S 52, North Polk 47

The Norsemen posted another impressive conference road win on Friday night (Dec. 6) in Alleman, slipping past the North Polk Comets 52-47 on the latter’s home floor. R-S (2-0 in the HOIAC) and North Polk both started out sluggish, as the score only read 2-1 three minutes into the game. But an 11-2 run by the Norse pushed the lead to 13-3. By quarter’s end R-S still held a 13-6 advantage. The Norsemen maintained a 23-17 lead heading into the locker room at the break.

"We were really balanced in scoring the first half, with six different guys scoring," stated Berggren. The third quarter saw the Comets stay close, as each team tallied 12 points in the eight minute frame.

The excitement continued to build into the fourth quarter, as the tension level began to increase. North Polk was able to pull to within one point late in the game, but R-S continued to score and also made some key stops at the other end to hold for the victory. The Norse were able to maintain ball control and also hit their free throws down the stretch to maintain the upper hand.

Ben Clark hit 4 of 5 free throws in clutch situations of the fourth quarter. Adam Shorkey also scored eight of his 13 points in the final period to pace the Norsemen’s crucial fourth quarter efforts. The final margin would be five, at 52-47, in favor of the visiting Norsemen.

R-S was 17 for 47 from the field for 36 percent, and made only 3 of 16 three pointers. But a 15 for 22 performance at the free throw line kept the Norse in front.

Clark ended up 8 of 9 at the free throw line and totaled 17 points to lead the Norsemen in scoring. Zach Hovick scored 13 points, as did Shorkey. Alex Urbanek pitched in five points. Shorkey also grabbed nine rebounds, while Clark hauled in six boards. Clark also dished off seven assists and had four steals, as he continues show signs of becoming an impressive floor leader for the Norsemen.

Season Outlook

The Roland-Story boys have 13 seniors out this year, providing plenty of returning experience from last year’s 14-9 campaign. Returning starters include seniors Zach Hovick and Nick Ahrens and junior Adam Shorkey. Returning letter winners include seniors Sam Miller, Alex Urbanek, Ross Barclay, Cole Birchmier, Neil Upadhyay, Kane Hassebrock, Ben Crisman and Thomas Wilgenbusch. Newcomers to the Norse squad are senior Ben Clark and sophomores Tyler Hovick and John Barclay.

"We have a very tough 10-team conference and I think we have a chance to compete for a high finish," said second year coach Darrin Berggren. "We should have good balance, with good depth at the post position, and also a good group of quick guards that can penetrate and make things happen."