On a night when almost every other game was wiped off the schedule due to wicked cold, Little Falls and Pierz were two of the few to take the court, Tuesday.
And while both teams took a while to heat up much offensively, eventually Little Falls went on a late first-half run, then kept the momentum going in the second half for a 49-28 win.
Neither team scored for the first three minutes of the contest, with the Flyers finally getting on the board nearly five minutes in.
Pierz held a 6-4 lead midway through the half, but the Flyers went into the break on a 12-2 run before gradually extending their advantage into double digits as they put the game away in the second half.
While the Pioneers were pleased with their defensive intensity early on, they felt like they missed out on a chance to take control and spring an upset after a 1-of-12 first half shooting from the field.
“I felt we played a great defensive first half and they took some shots that we wanted them to take,” Pierz head coach Matt Poepping said. “We also rebounded well the first half.
“It was a lost opportunity because we struggled on offense and you have to tip your hat to the Little Falls defense, they did a great job tonight,” he said.
Little Falls also had its difficulties from the field, shooting just 31.6 percent on the night.
“The last time we shot the ball that poorly, our defense and rebounding weakened as the game went on,” Little Falls head coach Kevin Jordan said. “I think it helped us to have that previous experience. It shows me we learned that whatever happens at the offensive end shouldn’t affect what goes on at the defensive end. Our effort on defense and boards needs to be consistently strong.
“I give Matt Poepping and the Pierz players a lot of credit: he had his team ready to play,” he said. “They crowded the paint and the post areas. We were unable to hit enough outside shots to bring them further out.
“I was disappointed with our patience on offense. We settled for a lower-percentage shot, instead of working to get a higher-percentage shot,” he said. “That’s something we have to take care of in order to win come section time.”
While the teams shot nearly identical percentages, Little Falls was able to hoist up 24 more shot attempts thanks in large part to a 22-12 turnover differential that proved costly for Pierz.
“When you don’t take care of the ball and don’t shoot a high percentage, you’re not going to win many games,” Poepping said.
Senior Sebastian Sowada ended as the scoring leader for the Flyers, draining 11 points while grabbing eight rebounds and passing out four assists.
Senior Mark Hanowski also reached double figures with 10 points, followed by juniors Kyle Kabanuk (8) and Thomas Bell (7), senior Jake Loukinen (6) and junior Bryce Zawatzke (5).
Sophomores Aaron Weber and David Skiba each scored six points, sophomore Noah Boser had five and junior Robbie Skiba and sophomore Jonny Kasper had four apiece for Pierz.
Flyers race past Foley
Little Falls had no such offensive troubles its previous time out, sprinting past visiting Foley 80-47 in Granite Ridge Conference play, Jan. 3.
Sowada put in 18 points, Zawatzke and sophomore Riley Loukinen each scored 15 and Kabanuk picked up 12 to pace the Flyers, with Zawatzke also hauling in 15 rebounds for a double-double.
Bell added six points and six assists and Hanowski recorded six points and eight rebounds.
Pierz handles Holdingford, tripped up by LPGE
Pierz used a healthy dose of Weber offensively early and often as the guard’s 20-point night highlighted a 59-46 Central Minnesota Conference victory over visiting Holdingford, Jan. 2.
Robbie Skiba netted 11 points and Kasper collected 10 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Pioneers.
“The kids played good defense,” Poepping said. “Jonny Kasper played great against (Jeremy) Springer and we got Aaron some open looks early to get him going.”
Senior Noah Thomsen and Boser each hit a pair of threes to add seven and six points, respectively.
Junior Matt Vasilj led the Huskers with 14 points and Springer contributed 11.
Pierz couldn’t muster the same magic the following night, as defensive-minded Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (LPGE) edged the visiting Pioneers 46-39, Jan. 3.
Robbie Skiba posted a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds to lead Pierz, with Weber adding 10 points.