By PATRICK SLACK
Upsala didn’t set out to complete an unbeaten regular season when they year started.
Not that the Cardinals ever wanted to lose.
Instead, the team kept its goals simple, trying to get better each day.
Big results followed, as Upsala completed an unblemished 26-0 regular season by running past host Isle 95-72, March 1, sparked by a 37-point performance from junior Christian Pekarek.
“It may sound cliche, but we never talk about goals such as winning the conference or going undefeated,” Upsala head coach Vern Capelle said. “We have one goal every year: to become the best team we are capable of becoming.”
“Whatever comes with that we accept and celebrate, but we never focus on achievement goals like won-loss record,” he said. “With that said, I’m sure our players have discussed other goals among themselves.”
A trio of Cardinals joined Pekarek in double figures, including senior Garrett Wolf with 17 points, senior Eric Frieler with 15 and junior Dylan Zimmerman with 10, continuing a season-long theme of Upsala being able to attack opposing defenses with a variety of options.
“Our record to this point is clear evidence of our team’s depth,” Capelle said. “Our team’s consistency is directly related to this depth as well. If one or two players have off nights, there is someone who always steps up. This makes us a tough match-up for many teams and has helped us survive nights when we aren’t playing well.”
Four hit double digits as Cardinals top Royals
The night before, Upsala secured a perfect Prairie Conference record, topping visiting Royalton 70-41, Feb. 28.
Pekarek netted 24 points to lead the Cardinals, followed by senior Avery Smieja and Zimmerman with 11 apiece and Frieler with 10.
Senior Luke Wentland led Royalton with 12 points, while senior Matt Silbernick added 10 and senior Ethan Zimny contributed eight.
“Winning our conference is special because I feel the Prairie Conference is very competitive year in and year out,” Capelle said. “Finishing the regular season undefeated is a special achievement that none of us will ever forget and we hope to continue this streak for another few weeks.”
Swanville edges Prep to
close regular season
Senior Austin Mollner and junior Cody Mollner each scored 17 points and sophomore Jordan Sales racked up 10 points, six rebounds and six blocks to lead Swanville to a 56-51 win over visiting St. John’s Prep, March 1.
Cody Mollner also grabbed 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double, while senior Colten Kruzel scored seven points, sophomore Tyler Evans netted three and senior Tren Dinius posted two points and seven assists.
The opening round of the Section 5A tournament takes place Thursday.
Upsala will host Bertha-Hewitt, Swanville will play at Nevis and Royalton travels to Isle.
“We need to continue to work hard on preparing for our next opponent and stay healthy in order to continue our streak,” Capelle said. “Our focus is to maintain our defensive consistency and to play at our tempo. If we do this, we will have a great shot at winning the section championship.”
Upsala 95, Isle 72
Upsala 48 47 – 95
Isle 33 39 – 72
Upsala—Christian Pekarek, 37; Garrett Wolf, 17; Eric Frieler, 15; Dylan Zimmerman, 10; Nick Frieler, 5; Avery Smieja, 5; Matt Abeler, 3; Jeffrey Halverson, 3. Rebounds: Zimmerman, 9. Assists: Pekarek, 4; Wolf, 4.
Upsala 70, Royalton 41
Royalton 18 23 – 41
Upsala 33 37 – 70
Royalton—Luke Wentland, 12; Matt Silberncik, 10; Ethan Zimny, 8; Jesse Popp, 6; Stephen Strusz, 3; Brad Woidyla, 2.
Upsala—Christian Pekarek, 24; Avery Smieja, 11; Dylan Zimmerman, 11; Eric Frieler, 10; Matt Abeler, 6; Nick Frieler, 3; Andy Nelson, 3; Garrett Wolf, 2. Rebounds: Zimmerman, 9. Assists: E. Frieler, 6.
Swanville 56, St. John’s Prep 51
Swanville—Austin Mollner, 17; Cody Mollner, 17; Jordan Sales, 10; Colten Kruzel, 7; Tyler Evans, 3; Tren Dinius, 2. Rebounds: C. Mollner, 10; A. Mollner, 7; Sales, 6. Assists: Dinius, 7; Sales, 4. Blocks: Sales, 6.