A fan commented after the Beckman overtime loss at home to Solon, Jan. 8, “They will be tougher to beat when we go there.”
That premonition proved correct as the Blazers fell to the Spartans, 38-36, there Feb. 2, making it a total of four points in the two losses.
A slim two-point difference developed in the first half, with the Blazers up 22-20. The Spartans knotted the game in the third quarter, 30-30 and won by the skin of their teeth in the fourth.
Only two players reached double figures in the game. Solon’s Carson Shive made both of his three attempts and 5-of-6 from the field to lead scoring with 13. Logan Goedken paced the Blazers with 11, making one-of-two from the arc.
The Blazers had only 13 chances at the free throw line, making five of them, while the Spartans made 6-of-14.
Coach Michael Molony commented, “Heading to Solon to face the fourth-ranked 3A team and the conference leader, we knew we needed to be more consistent on each end. Boy, did we rise to the occasion.
“The game was a seesaw battle and never really got away from one or two possessions. When you see the score you might think it was a boring game but both coaches agreed it was playoff basketball. You could feel the weight of each basket more than normally.
“I have to give our guys credit that while we did not play our best offensively, we really locked in when we needed to on both ends. I think both times we matched up with Solon we gave them a lot of issues they had not seen throughout the year.
“I am super proud of how we played and, to be honest, we left some open shots out there that could have tilted the game our way. Knowing we worked to get great shots, I know they will start to fall.
“While the loss really stung because we put forth more than a winning effort, we need to take the positives and keep getting better at executing when we need it most.”
Beckman’s leaders were: scoring — Jake Hermsen nine, Jack Gehling eight, Padraig Gallagher four, Nate Schaefer and Logan Burchard two; rebounds — Hermsen six, Goedken five, Gallagher four, Gehling three, Burchard two; blocks — Hermsen three, Gallagher two, Ryan Burchard one; steals — Goedken, Schaefer and Hermsen one; assists — Gallagher four, Goedken two, Ryan Burchard one; turnovers — seven.
Defense again proved to control Beckman’s game with Mount Vernon at home, Feb. 5, and in the end, it was a 47-35 Blazer loss, moving them to 10-7 on the season.
The Blazers began with the lead, getting an opening three from Logan Burchard and free throws from Gehling for a 5-0 advantage. They led 9-3 on a lane-clearing spin and lay-in from Ryan Burchard before the Mustangs reeled off three straight scores, including a buzzer-tying three from leading scorer Keaton Kutcher for a 10-9 Mustang lead at the break.
Kutcher repeated his longball to start the second quarter. Gallagher struggled through triple defenders for a lay-in to make it 13-11. After Kutcher hit from eight feet, Goedken drilled a long three and it was a one-point game, 15-14.
By halftime it was back to four, a spread halved with the first basket of the second half, from Gallagher. Kutcher and Jayden Weeden answered but Gallagher did the same and, when Gehling hit from the arc, it was back to one, 25-24. Schaefer had a chance to tie and go ahead, but missed both sides of his bonus. In the final half-minute, the Mustangs got lane floaters from Collin Swantz and Meeker for a 29-24 lead.
Swantz began the fourth with another two footer and when Gallagher answered it was 31-26. Then the roof fell in. Swantz drained a three, stole the ball and converted, teammate Owen Brase hit from the arc and Meeker got both sides of a bonus, all while the Blazers failed to score, making it 41-26 with about two minutes to go.
Gallagher powered inside for a plus-one but Kutcher negated that with a trey, 44-29, then drilled another after Logan Burchard made both charity shots at the one-minute mark. The final Blazer tallies came from Gallagher with a two and Sam Oberbroeckling, two free throws.
“This was a game we knew our defensive execution was needed to be spot on,” added Molony. “This is probably the most fundamentally sound team around and they hardly ever are taken out of their tempo. Through about 3.5 quarters, we did exactly what we needed to on defense and forced them to make tough shots, taking away anything easy.
“On the offensive end, it was really our inability to keep getting good shots and some untimely turnovers that cost us. We did not get aggressive enough at times. Part of that could be their defense and part was due to just a few small things like missed screening/cutting opportunities that could have gotten us some better looks.
“To our credit, we had about eight opportunities in the second half when we were down just a point and needed to find a way to take the lead, but we couldn’t get over that hump. We realized this is what great teams do: they find ways to win when things don’t go 100% their way and that is a valuable lesson come playoff time.
“This loss felt a lot like Tuesday’s in that we had opportunities and should be proud of how well we competed. But in the end, we need to think about why they were able to pull this one out and continue to figure out how we can do the same. There were a lot of positives from the week considering the quality of the teams we were up against.”
Individual stat leaders were: scoring — Gallagher 13, Gehling seven (one), Logan Burchard six (one), Goedken three (one), Hermsen, Ryan Burchard and Oberbroeckling two; rebounds —Goedken six, Hermsen five, Gehling four, Gallagher and Logan Burchard two, Schaefer one; blocks — Goedken and Gehling one; steals —Jude Brehm two, Gallagher, Gehling, Logan Burchard and Cayden Gassmann one; assists —Goedken five, Logan Burchard, Gallagher, Hermsen, Gehling and Gassmann one; turnovers — 19.