GRANITE FALLS - The month of January wasn't kind to the Yellow Medicine East boys basketball team.
The Sting went winless in seven games, which head coach Jake Suter said was probably the toughest stretch of the team's schedule. YME played Montevideo (No. 9 in Class AA) twice during the month with a game against MACCRAY (No. 4 in Class) sandwiched in the middle. Six of the team's seven losses during the stretch came by double figures.
So far, February has been looking much better.
Yellow Medicine East’s Adam Savariego, right, releases a shot over the outstretched arm of Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Austen Bowman during the first half of Monday’s non-conference matchup in
Coming off a win over Lakeview on Thursday, the Sting picked up their second win in a row by rolling past Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg 64-49 on Monday in a non-conference game in Granite Falls.
January was a rough month for the Sting, but senior guard Adam Savariego says things are starting to look up.
"It's tough. We lost to Monte both times by 30 or 40 and lost to BOLD by 20. Against Morris, we had a close one there," said Savariego, who scored a game-high 22 points Monday. "It's just about keeping our heads up and looking at the easier stretch ahead of us and building our confidence. Now we have BOLD on Friday and we have to get that one."
Jonah Johnson 4 6-11 16, Austen Bowman 5 7-10 19, Blake Hagen 3 0-0 6, Jacob Zvorak 1 2-4 4, Mitch Tollefson 2 0-0 4. Totals 15 15-25 49. Three-pointers 4 Rebounds 26 (Bowman 5, Tollefson 5) Assists 7 (Johnson 4) Steals 14 (Bowman 6) Blocks 1 Turnovers 15 Total Fouls 10.
Brandon Grund 2 0-0 4, Elliot Carmany 2 0-0 4, Devon Dyrdahl 4 4-4 12, Reed Raddatz 6 0-0 12, Adam Savariego 10 0-1 22, Jake Sharkey 1 0-0 2, Ryan Reishus 4 0-0 8. Totals 29 4-5 64. Three-pointers 2 (Savariego 2) Rebounds 37 (Reishus 8, Carmany 7) Assists 20 (Carmany 7, Reishus 4) Steals 9 (Savariego 3) Blocks 1 Turnovers 21 Total Fouls 19.
Halftime Score: YME 33, KMS 28.
YME (6-10 overall) used its superior athleticism and size over the Fighting Saints (5-12) to get the ball to the rim both in transition and in its half-court offense. The close looks allowed the Sting to shoot 52 percent for the game, while KMS was held to just 34 percent shooting from the field.
The Sting pushed the pace in the first half, getting up the court quickly off of steals and defensive rebounds. Up 10-9, YME went on a 7-0 run in a span of just over a minute after a three by Savariego, a layup by 6-foot-6 center Ryan Reishus and a fastbreak layup by Savariego.
Suter said the Sting played the game without starting guard Adam Koepke, who rolled his ankle last week. With Savariego getting more responsibility handling the ball, Suter liked how the senior guard got his teammates out and running.
"(Savariego) had a little more pressure on him to take care of the ball and he did a nice job," Suter said. "He pushed tempo when it was there and he hit some big shots to really stretch the lead and bring it home in the end."
Despite playing the game at their pace, fouls and turnovers prevented YME from pulling away in the first half. The Sting committed their seventh foul with 10 minutes, 26 seconds left in the half, putting KMS in the bonus the rest of the way. YME finished with 21 turnovers in the game.
Savariego said the Sting may have gotten a little too aggressive for a stretch.
"We wanted to put pressure on their ball handlers and get them turning over the ball," said Savariego, who had three steals. "We were one step behind and slow on defense (in the first half) and that led to some fouls and easy shots for them."
KMS cut the lead to 33-28 at the half, led by the scoring of guard Jonah Johnson and forward Austen Bowman. Bowman finished with 19 points in the game and Johnson had 16, but no other KMS player scored more than six.
The Sting quickly pushed the lead to 41-30 after a driving layup by Elliot Carmany, followed by a turnaround jumper by Carmany. YME continued to build on its lead by dumping the ball down low and letting its big men go to work.
"We have some big guys who can put it in the hoop with Ryan Reishus, Devon Dyrdahl (6-2), Reed Raddatz (6-2) and Austin Thorstad (6-4)," Suter said. "When we have a height advantage and size advantage, we've got to get it in there and take it. We still have to shore up our entry passes so we can take advantage of that even more."
Dyrdahl and Raddatz each finished with 12 points, while Reishus had eight points and eight rebounds. They all helped the Sting to a 37-26 advantage on the boards.
The Sting will try to keep their momentum rolling on Friday when they return to West Central Conference play with a home game against BOLD. With five games left in his team's season, Suter likes the direction his players are now headed.
"It's just a matter of bringing it home when we have a chance," Suter said. "Tonight was a good step forward because we didn't really have our best game going in terms of taking care of the basketball, so it was nice to see us pull away and hold on to the ball at the end."