LESTER PRAIRIE – Mayer Lutheran’s Isaac Hahn and Teigan Martin have been playing together for a long time. That’s where a lot of their chemistry comes from on the floor in the high-low game for the Crusaders.
With a big size advantage inside against rival Lester Prairie, the Crusaders leaned on Hahn and Martin inside in a convincing 83-60 win over the Bulldogs Monday night.
“We’ve just been playing together since grade school,” Hahn said as he and Martin combined for 43 points in the win. “We’ve always been buddies. Just playing together and working together is fun.”
Hahn and Martin had things working early and often for Mayer Lutheran. After a disappointing loss to Belle Plaine last Friday, they were determined not to let that carry over into the matchup with their rival.
“That’s one of the things we talked about,” Mayer Lutheran coach Keith Traska said. “That’s one of the benefits of losing on Friday. It gave us a good wake up call to play the way we needed to play. We absolutely did that tonight.”
For Lester Prairie, it was the opposite. The Bulldogs came into the matchup coming off a win over top-10 ranked Legacy Christian. Instead of building off that win, Lester Prairie struggled to do what they do best in the loss.
“It was a tough one,” Lester Prairie coach Andrew Dahl said. “I thought we were ready to play. It’s a rivalry. The guys were ready to get after it, but we didn’t start off the greatest. We probably played a little too much one-on-one early. We weren’t sharing it or spreading it around as much as we should.”
Foul trouble hurt the Bulldogs early on as starters Jack Behning and Trever Schauer each were forced to sit. Knowing the Bulldogs’ bench wasn’t deep, Mayer Lutheran’s goal all along was to make them dig deep.
“We knew that their five starters were carrying their team,” Traska said. “We wanted to get them in foul trouble and run as much as we could to get them tired. It worked. They were trying to be aggressive. They threw a box and one at us, man-to-man, and a 3-2 zone. Our guys just stay disciplined. We stuck to what we knew.”
With Behning and Schauer limited with fouls, that forced the Bulldogs to adjust on the fly.
“We’re not the deepest squad,” Dahl said. “Getting a couple of our top guys in foul trouble early didn’t help. We just got to be smarter. We’ve got to be quicker with our feet.”
Mayer Lutheran took full advantage of the foul problems for the Bulldogs. With Martin and Hahn taking control of the game inside, the Crusaders jumped out to a 31-13 lead.
“Isaac was an absolute monster for us,” Traska said. “He did a great job of posting up. We’ve been working on a secondary fastbreak too. We know people are paying attention to Teigan. Isaac’s going to be open and he’s not going to have the best big man defender on him. Most teams don’t have two solid post defenders. If you’re going to guard Teigan with one, Isaac’s going to have a good night.”
Hahn finished with 19 points, while Martin led the way with 24 points. The Crusaders also got contributions from the perimeter, which is something Traska knows is important going forward with teams focusing on taking away Martin inside.
“That’s one of those things we learned about against Belle Plaine,” Traska said. “They did everything they could to take away Teigan. It was hard for us. We’ve got to have guys who can score and not just wait for Teigan to go to work. It was all the guys chipping in and doing what they needed to do. It was great energy. When you’re playing like that, that’s a fun game. The guys were having fun. That’s the way we want to play basketball every night.”
Elijah Jopp also stepped up in a big way for the Crusaders. He had 12 points in the first half alone, giving Mayer LUtherna another option to score inside and out.
“All these guys are special, but Elijah is one of those special talents where I can play him as a post or a guard,” Traska said. “He gives us so much versatility.”
Lester Prairie’s focus was on slowing Martin down. It worked at times, but the Crusaders found ways to make big plays when needed.
“We tried to take away some touches early on from Teigan with a box and one,” Dahl said. “They do have some other guys though. They have guys who can shoot from the outside or put it on the floor. We had some success with that, but it’s tough when they got multiple guys that can hurt you.”
For Lester Prairie, they’ll look to bounce back after their third loss of the season.
“Tonight’s a wake-up call a little bit,” Dahl said. “We were feeling pretty good after beating Legacy Christian. We got some talented kids though. Hopefully, we get a chance to play them again later in the year.”
With the win, Mayer Lutheran got back in the win and column and is 9-1 on the season. With some big games coming up, it’s all about keeping their momentum rolling after getting back on track.
“As a team, we came together after last week,” Hahn said. “We just needed to realize we just had to come out and do what we do. We’re just going to keep using it to fuel us the rest of the season.”
“It was important for sections,” Jopp added. “To come out and get a big win against a good team felt nice. This is a huge win for us. It was a tough loss on Friday, so this was a good booster for our confidence and get us back on track.”
For the complete story and more Herald Journal sports coverage, check out the Feb. 19 edition of the Herald Journal. Click here for subscription information.
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