Swanville fell behind 8-0 right out of the gates and gave up a 13-4 run to end the game.
But the Bulldogs made enough big plays in between, and received a big boost from their bench, to end a wacky, rollercoaster night on a high note with a 64-61 win over visiting Holdingford, Jan. 3.
After Holdingford took control early, Swanville slowly whittled away at the deficit, only for the Huskers to reassert their edge by going up 36-27 early in the second half.
Swanville kept clawing back, though, evening the game at 41-41 midway through the second half before a three-pointer by junior Austin Johnson gave the Bulldogs the lead with nine minutes left, serving as the catalyst of a 17-1 run.
“It was kind of that way all night, back and forth,” Swanville head coach Jay Loven said.
It was about to swing back, as Holdingford started attacking the basket and getting to the foul line, moving within one possession at 62-59 with just more than a minute remaining.
The Huskers had two golden opportunities to tie the score in the final minute, a layup that rattled out and an open three, but couldn’t convert either attempt as the Bulldogs hung on.
“When you get a win in a game like that you’re pretty happy,” Loven said. “There’s a lot of things we can learn from a game like that. Obviously toward the end we got a little panicky, but all in all we played well.”
The junior duo of Jordan Sales and Tyler Evans led Swanville offensively, draining 16 and 14 points, respectively, with Sales also hauling in 13 rebounds.
But it was the Bulldogs’ supporting cast that stole the show, providing key plays on both ends of the floor down the stretch.
Sophomore Carter Loven scored 10 points, Johnson had nine, senior Aaron Miller picked up seven and senior Cody Mollner recorded five to go with eight rebounds.
Freshman Bennet Primus added three points and a trio of key offensive rebounds.
Getting a balanced effort will be key for the team to remain near the top of the Prairie Conference and in the section hunt the rest of the way, coach Loven said.
“It’s huge,” he said. “That’s one thing we kind of stressed. We can’t rely on a couple guys on the team. We play seven kids, everyone has to contribute – that’s part of the win and that’s part of our success moving forward so teams can’t just key on two guys.”
Holdingford had four players reach double figures offensively, including junior Matt Vasilj (17), senior Jeremy Springer (16), junior Grant Bullert (12) and freshman Blake Patrick (10), with Vasilj snatching 15 rebounds for a double-double.
“It was disappointing to work hard, build the lead and get down by double digits,” Holdingford head coach Nate Miller said. “Basketball is a game of runs and we didn’t do a good job of stopping them. I was pleased we never gave up and fought to the end and we had some chances to tie the game late.
“We are young at a lot of positions and hopefully learning from these games will help us improve for future games,” he said. “Guys have to learn that every possession is important. We will continue to work hard and get better as a team.”
Loven takes over as coach
It was the first game as head coach for Jay Loven, who is also the head coach of the Upsala-Swanville Area football team that reached the state tournament in the fall.
Loven was appointed to the position by the Swanville School Board of Directors, Dec. 28, taking over for Steve Miller, who resigned from the position.
Loven’s previous basketball coaching experience includes a one-year stint filling in as Swanville girls head coach in 2008-09 while the school was in a transitional year between coaches.
All head coaches must be certified by the Minnesota State High School League, which Loven already was through football.
Loven plans on relying on his assistants as he gets up to speed, specifically Barney VanHavermaet, who was the Class A Assistant Coach of the Year a year ago.
“Absolutely. That’s the way it’s going to be the whole year,” Loven said. “Barney is very knowledgeable. When you’ve got good ones (assistants), you ask them a lot of questions.”
Upsala hits triple digits
Senior Christian Pekarek scored 32 points as Upsala raced past visiting Onamia 106-45, Jan. 4.
Senior Dylan Zimmerman (20) and juniors Jeremy Halverson (13), Aidan Guthrie (12) and Kyle Soltis (12) also reached double figures for the Cardinals, who improved to 9-1.
Pekarek and senior Nathan Ehrenberg each finished with five assists, while Pekarek also had nine steals.