By PATRICK SLACK
The Upsala boys basketball team likes to play fast.
So faced with the notorious patient, slow-paced offense of defending Prairie Conference champion Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (LPGE), Upsala head coach Vern Capelle knew the Cardinals needed to start quickly to be able to dictate the pace to their liking.
That meant shooting the ball much better than in its previous game against Holdingford, when the Cardinals’ offense sputtered through the first half on the way to a scoring a season-low 53 points.
Against LPGE, Upsala nearly matched that output in the first half, speeding to a 43-33 lead at the break, then poured it on even further with 47 more points in the second half en route to a 90-66 road win, Jan. 31.
“It absolutely helped us to get ahead,” Upsala head coach Vern Capelle said. “We felt that they would try to slow the pace of the game on us and stressed getting early pressure on them and building a lead. We had success early with that and we were able to dictate the tempo for the rest of the game.”
Junior Christian Pekarek took charge of the reins offensively from the start, finishing with 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the field.
Seniors Garrett Wolf (18) and Avery Smieja (15) and junior Dylan Zimmerman (11) also reached double figures in scoring, with Smieja grabbing 13 rebounds to post a double-double.
“First, I want to give a lot of credit to Holdingford’s defense (in the previous game),” Capelle said. “They played very hard and made it difficult for us. With that said, we shot the ball terribly from the field, 4-of-27 from three, and also the free-throw line.”
“We also had some foul trouble that forced us into different lineups early in the game,” he said. “Versus LPGE, we shot the ball more typically and that led to a good offensive night for us.”
Swanville cruises past Osakis, Eagle Valley
Swanville ran its winning streak to four with a pair of runaway Prairie Conference road victories, topping Osakis 53-34, Jan. 31, and Eagle Valley 82-44, Tuesday.
Senior Tren Dinius was the leading force on both sides of the ball in the Bulldogs’ win over Osakis, racking up 15 points while recording eight steals.
Senior Jordan Sales added a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds and senior Austin Mollner logged 10 points and six rebounds.
Ten different players got in on the scoring action in Swanville’s demolition of Eagle Valley, led by Austin Mollner and Sales with 20 points apiece.
Juniors Aaron Miller and Cody Mollner each contributed eight points and combined for 24 rebounds and senior Colten Kruzel picked up six points and six assists.
Royalton drops three on road
Royalton dropped a trio of close Prairie Conference road games, falling 51-44 at St. John’s Prep, Jan. 31, 53-47 at West Central Area, Feb. 2, and 63-53 at Osakis, Tuesday.
The Royals closed within one possession multiple times in the second half against St. John’s Prep, only for the Johnnies to answer on each occasion.
Senior Stephen Strusz scored 12 points and seniors Luke Wentland and Ethan Zimny each had 10 to lead the Royals.
The Royals outscored West Central Area 29-23 in the second half, but couldn’t quite overcome a 12-point halftime spread.
Senior Justin Opatz and Wentland netted 13 points apiece and senior Matt Silbernick recorded 10 points and seven rebounds for Royalton.
Zimny and Silbernick combined for 33 points and Opatz had 11 points and six assists, but Osakis shot 60 percent from the field to pull away from the Royals in the second half.