MAYER – The Mayer Lutheran boys basketball team may have lost several key players from last year’s state tournament team, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to make another run this season. Despite losing six seniors from last season’s team that made school history, the Crusaders have used their younger players to step up and get off to a good start this season.
Even though several new players are getting their first taste of varsity, the Crusaders kept things rolling with an impressive 69-47 victory over Cedar Mountain Monday night to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“They’ve handled it wonderfully,” Mayer Lutheran coach Pat Buchanan said about younger players stepping in. “They know their roles and they’re buying into their roles. This puzzle of what we’re trying to build will come together when everyone plays together.”
Despite outplaying the Cougars in the first half, the Crusaders had just a 10-point lead at the half. After going over a few things in the locker room, the Crusaders came out swinging in the second half.
“I think our defense was perfectly fine,” Buchanan said. “I just thought that offensively, we were stagnant. We weren’t going through our offense. We stopped and started playing their game. That’s not our game. That’s not how this offense works. That’s not how we play.
Mayer Lutheran opened the half on a mission. Jacob Pallas and Zander Flucas each knocked down a 3-pointer early, all of a sudden giving the Crusaders an 18-point lead.
“We always talk about the first five, and last five minutes of each half,” Buchanan said. “We came out swinging right away. We knew if we could do that, we could really set the tone. We always want to set the tone.”
The Crusaders got back to their style of play in the second half while continuing to play good defense. With just over nine minutes left to play, the Crusaders had a 20-point lead.
“Just ball movement,” senior Kaleb Winter said about the difference in the second half for his team. “As a team, we were getting into the post and looking for that and getting a lot of shot opportunities.”
The Crusaders cruised to the win the rest of the way as four players scored 10 or more points in the victory. Baden Noennig led the way with 16 points, while freshman Teigan Martin continued to play well with 12 points. Brendan Feltmann and Zander Flucas also both finished with 10 points.
“It makes things really difficult,” Winter said about the balanced scoring. “It could be anyone’s night. We love to share the ball. We’re a very unselfish team. It makes us very dangerous.”
A big part to the early success for the Crusaders this season has been the return of guard Jacob Pallas. Pallas, who missed most of the season last year with injury, is back and fully healthy, to give the Crusaders a leader on the floor and get the offense rolling,
“It’s wonderful,” Buchanan said about having Pallas back. “He’s our floor general out there. He’s still a sophomore when you talk about basketball. He’s only got seven games in and we played 34 games last year. He’s going to get better and better as the season progresses. That means we’re going to get better and better as a team.”
Although the Crusaders have opened the season with back-to-back wins at home, they’ll get a good test in their next matchup with the North Woods Grizzlies Saturday at the Breakdown Tip Off Classic. Both Mayer Lutheran and North Woods are ranked in the Top 10 in Class A, and will be looking for a signature win early in the season.
“It’s going to be another game,” Buchanan said. “North Woods won’t be happy with what happened to them in their second game against Cass Lake-Bena. They’re going to be ready to go. We’ll be fully prepared for them. We’ll be ready to go out to a great atmosphere. It’s a privilege to be invited to that Breakdown event. We’re going to take advantage of it. We’re trying to bring a show over there, and we’ll see what happens.”
Mayer Lutheran 69, Cedar Mountain 47
CEDAR MOUNTAIN: Andre Larsen 2, Tavi Nelson 3, Lewis Pendleton 29, Devonte Charles 3, Jon Varner 1, Justin Lumbar 2, Trey Peterson-Juhl 7.
MAYER LUTHERAN: Austin Crown 2, Mark Masters 1, Jacob Pallas 3, Brendan Feltman 10, Eric Lizalde 6, Zander Flucas 10, Brady Harnung 2, Baden Noennig 16, Kaleb Winter 4, Sawyer Kubasch 3, Teigan Martin 12.