SPRINGVILLE - Fighting for their Tri-Rivers Conference championship lives Tuesday, Feb. 2, the class 1A seventh-ranked Springville boys’ basketball team wanted a similar performance on the defensive end against visiting and top-ranked North Linn as they had back in Troy Mills last month.
Early on, it didn’t appear that was going to happen.
“After our first game against North Linn, we were pretty hopeful that we could replicate our defensive performance and also click a little better on offense,” said Oriole boys basketball coach Nick Merritt, as his team once again gave the talented Lynx all they could handle before finally succumbing to a 69-59 defeat.
“Unfortunately, North Linn came out and shot the ball very well to start the game and we dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter.”
Thankfully for Oriole fans, it would be one the Springville boys would be able to climb back out of.
The Orioles trailed 21-9 after one quarter as North Linn hit shots from all over the floor, including five first quarter 3-pointers before Rhenden Wagaman, Alex Koppes and Jack Hoogland began to shoot the hosts right back into the game.
Springville (18-2, 10-2) went on a huge 14-5 run in a mere three-minute span and trailed just 26-23 mid way through the second stanza before the Lynx closed the half going on a 9-6 spurt of their own to lead 35-29 at the break.
“After that first quarter we definitely got a lot more focused and clawed our way back into the game,” said Merritt, as Wagaman tallied nine first half points while Hoogland drilled a pair of treys and had eight points in the first two quarters.
“We kept it at a three-to-seven point game throughout, and despite that we just couldn’t get over the hump. Every time we were right there making a run at North Linn, they’d answer with a couple of big shots to get their lead back to a couple possessions.”
The Orioles stayed right with the Lynx through the third quarter before the visitors extended their advantage back to double-digits in the fourth.
“For the second time with North Linn, I just didn’t think we played like we typically do on offense, and obviously that had a lot to do with their game plan and then how we didn’t attack them like we are capable of,” Merritt said. “Regardless of the outcome, playing games against teams of North Linn’s caliber is important for the post-season, as it’s a really good test for us and helps show some of the areas we need to keep improving.”
Springville shot the ball very well connecting at a 49-percent (25-of-51) clip from the field and were led by Wagaman’s 13 points and 10 rebounds. Koppes added 12 points, six rebounds and six assists while Hoogland played a huge role off the bench scoring 11 points hitting three clutch treys seemingly right when his team needed them the most. Bryce Wilson added nine points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The Orioles quickly bounced right back claiming a 72-26 rout over visiting East Buchanan just 24 hours later (Wednesday, Feb. 3).
“With the tough loss to North Linn the night before, having a quick bounce back game to hopefully put the previous game behind us was a welcome thing versus thinking about the loss for multiple days,” Merritt said. “Overall, once we settled in, I was thrilled with how hard we played on defense and hopefully our guys see how much our offense benefits from our defense.”
Springville jumped to a 14-8 first quarter lead before completely taking control in the second stanza going on a huge 29-3 spurt to lead 43-11 at the half.
The Oriole defense would continue to suffocate the Buccaneer offense in the third quarter as well as the hosts would go on a 21-2 run to take a huge 64-13 advantage into the final frame.
Luke Menster powered the Springville offense going 9-of-10 from the free throw line and overall finished with a game-high 20 points while also adding six steals. Koppes tallied 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals during a phenomenal all-around performance while Wagaman added 13 points.
The Orioles kept the winning ways going Saturday, Feb. 6, though it sure wasn’t easy.
Traveling to Edgewood-Colesburg and in a game that saw the visitors trailing at the half, Springville had to rally late for a hard-fought 61-46 victory.
“We knew playing Ed-Co at their place was going to be a really tough game,” said Merritt, as his team was looking up at the Vikings trailing 19-12 after one quarter and at the 30-28 at the half.
“They’ve had a great season and were coming into the game with only three losses on the year, and two of those were by three points each to undefeated teams and one a 23-point loss to us. To start the game, we did a pretty nice job of attacking, but they did a good job of making shots difficult and we struggled to get our offense going.”
Springville trailed by as many as 12 points in the second quarter before making a 14-6 run right before the half, then coming out of the break the Orioles completely flipped the script going on a game-changing 19-6 run to lead 47-36 heading into the final frame.
Koppes caught fire scoring 10 of his 14 points in the second half as Springville pulled away late as Wagaman, Wilson, Menster and Tommy Hagensick all connected from the charity stripe to ice the win away.
Wilson powered the offense with 16 points and tallied four steals while Koppes and Wagaman added 14 points each. Hagensick came through with nine points off the bench.