TRACY - Basketball is a game of runs. Unfortunately for the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers, they were on the wrong end of a pair of big runs Monday against Redwood Valley, the No. 5-ranked boys basketball team in Class AA.
The Panthers stayed within a point of the Cardinals through the first 11 minutes, 30 seconds, but then Redwood Valley exploded for a 14-0 run to take a healthy lead. Then, early in the second half, the Cardinals powered their way to 19-0 run to gain a 30-point advantage as they cruised to a 70-44 victory.
Redwood Valley 6-foot-4 senior guard Michael Busack put up a game-high 29 points with eight rebounds and three steals. Junior guard Alec Koster scored 20 points, and senior center Beau Stough added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Cardinals, who shot 48.1 percent from the field.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Redwood Valley’s Michael Busack, right, drives past Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s Parker Lanoue during the second half of Monday night’s non-conference game in Tracy.
Down 19-18 through the first 11 minutes of the game, it was a promising start for the Panthers, but TMB head coach Rick Haberman said the Cardinals just had too much firepower to fend off the whole game.
"I thought we were able to play physical, which is what you need to do against a real good team like this and what you need to do in the playoffs," said Haberman, whose team drops to 11-13 overall after losing its regular season finale. "They're just such a hard team to hold down for a long stretch. We were able to hold them down for short stretches, but when they get going they're really difficult to stop."
Redwood Valley ends the regular season with a 23-1 record and has won eight straight games by double figures since its only loss of the season on Jan. 31 against Marshall.
Redwood Valley (70)
Michael Busack 10 6-7 29, Alec Koster 8 1-1 20, Adam Hengel 3 0-0 7, Beau Stough 4 2-2 11, Thane Widmer 1 1-2 3. Totals 26 10-12 70. Three-pointers 8 (Busack 3, Koster 3) Rebounds 27 (Busack 8, Stough 7) Assists 15 (Stough 6) Steals 8 (Busack 3) Blocks 5 (Busack 2, RJ Juell 2) Turnovers 14 Total Fouls 21.
Mason Van Essen 3 0-0 6, Brian Fultz 2 4-4 9, Jacob Orren 5 4-4 14, Parker Lanoue 1 1-3 4, Alex Meyer 1 0-0 2, Alec Swan 2 1-5 5, Tommy Nelson 1 2-4 4. Totals 15 12-20 44. Three-pointers 2 Rebounds 17 (Orren 5) Assists 9 Steals 8 (Swan 2) Blocks 1 Turnovers 15 Total Fouls 12.
Halftime Score: Redwood Valley 35, TMB 24.
The Cardinals are one of the highest-scoring teams in Class AA this season, averaging nearly 73 points per game, but Busack said the team's defense has been key in its strong finish to the season.
"We just play really good defense and that's what we've been priding ourselves in the most," said Busack, whose team held TMB to 27.8 percent shooting on Monday. "I don't care how much we score. We're leading the section right now in points against us with 52 or so, so we really take pride in that. That's what's been helping us win all these games."
The Panthers were able to have some success against Redwood Valley's defense early on in Monday's game by getting points in the paint. Forward Mason Van Essen had three scores inside to help TMB stay within striking distance in the first half, and senior center Jacob Orren was an effective scorer down low, putting up 10 points in the first half and a team-high 14 points in the game.
"Jake had a career high on Senior Night, that was really good to see," Haberman said. "He did a good job of establishing position in there, he did a good job calling for the ball, and then when he got it he took it hard to the basket. I was very impressed with how Jake played."
Busack started Redwood Valley's 14-0 first-half run with back-to-back layups, but had to sit on the bench for the final 4:24 of the half after picking up his third foul on a charge. Stough added a three-pointer and a putback with Busack out to help keep the Cardinals rolling. Redwood Valley went into halftime up 35-24.
A three-pointer by Parker Lanoue, TMB's leading scorer this season, brought the Panthers within 42-31 with 15:33 in the second half. It was Lanoue's only basket of the game, as he was held to just four points on 1 of 12 shooting.
Koster hit a three-pointer immediately following Lanoue's shot, and Redwood Valley just kept scoring on the Panthers as they went on a 19-0 run to blow open the game.
Orren was the only Panther to reach double figures in scoring. Brian Fultz added nine points, and Van Essen, who had the task of guarding Busack for much of the game, finished with six points.
Although his team was unable to keep it close with the Cardinals, Haberman said the game was a good experience for his team as it heads into its first-round contest of the Section 3AA-North tournament Saturday against No. 4 seed BOLD in Bird Island.
"Redwood is the best team in the section. It's good to play the best going in there because then you have a better idea of what to expect," said Haberman, whose Panthers are seeded fifth in the sub-section. "It's going to be a fun section tournament. There are some excellent teams and you're going to have to play really well to survive any of the rounds."
While the Panthers will be fighting to survive, the Cardinals will be looking to maintain their dominance against Section 3AA opponents once they enter the postseason. Last season's section champion, Redwood Valley is 16-0 against section foes this season and has defeated all of the tournament's top contenders.
Busack said the Cardinals will need to stick with what they've been doing, with maybe a few tweaks, to be able to get back to state.
"We're going to have to pound the ball inside and have a more balanced attack," said Busack, whose team takes on No. 8 seed Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Saturday in Redwood Falls. "We'll see a bunch of junk defenses, I'm sure, because we beat these teams earlier in the year. We just need to stick to what we've been doing the whole year, execute a little bit better and take care of the ball."