It took the Elk Mound boys’ basketball team nearly 32 minutes to settle into a comfortable lead against the Fall Creek Crickets Tuesday at Elk Mound High School, but once they hit a good inside rhythm, it was smooth sailing for the last five minutes of regulation, ending in a 72-63 triumph.
Elk Mound’s Ben Lambele was held to just three inside baskets in the first half, as the Crickets clogged the lane to prevent Lambele from doing what he does best. Forced to shoot from the outside, the Mounders connected on seven triples in the first half alone to keep in step with the Crickets, who were also draining threes left and right.
By the time the first half buzzer sounded, 12 3-pointers had been made on both sides, including a last second Cricket trey to lift them to a 31-29 advantage.
Elk Mound adjusted their strategy in the second half to capitalize more on inside shots. Head coach Mike Kessler said the team rose to the occasion in making the changes necessary to respond to Fall Creek’s playstyle.
“Finding shooters and staying tight to them is something we didn’t do much of in the first half,” he said. “Offensively, just having more interior focus mentality ... certainly we were making threes but I thought we were leaving some points on the board in possessions because we weren’t working the ball inside.”
And the adjustment worked. Lambele beat the Crickets to the net for nine second half baskets and drew fouls to help the Mounders close out the match at the line in double bonus.
Lambele finished up with 31 points to lead all scorers, his highest scoring game of the season. The 6-foot-3 senior also led the team in rebounds with 16, including four offensive grabs.
Blake Rosenthal and Dylan Curry also ended the night in double figures with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Rosenthal connected on five 2-pointers, one 3-pointer and one from the line while Curry drained three triples and went 3-for-6 at the line.
Brett Lew threw in for two 3-pointers and two freebies for eight points on the night. Ryan Mohr added four points and Dylan Black chipped in three charity points to round out Elk Mound scoring.
The Crickets saw just eight shots from the free throw line where they connected on six while the Mounders went to the line to shoot 12-for-21.
The Mounders spent the rest of the week preparing for Friday’s quarterfinal regional matchup against Regis (17-5).
“We’ve lost to Regis by three, to Durand by four one time and five in others, so we have always been right there with two of the better teams in our half,” Kessler said. “We like where we’re at, certainly lots to improve on, but we’re excited to be playing again.”