Boys show improvement in two road games

Lucas Howard breaks away for a wide-open Kingsland shot under the basket at Lanesboro. CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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The Kingsland basketball team is looking to make steady improvements with a lot of new faces on the floor. They saw some of those improvements as they split two road games last week.

The Knights rode a red-hot first-half and then held on to beat Lanesboro 66-57. The fourth quarter would be the Knights’ undoing in the Iowa-Minnesota border battle, falling on Saturday night in Decorah 62-49 against Crestwood. The Knights are 2-2 on the season (2-1 SEC).

Fast start vs. Lanesboro

The Knights started off with a red-hot first half of shooting, cooled off after halftime, but still held on for a nine-point Southeast Conference win at Lanesboro. Kingsland roared out to a fast start and led 45-27 at halftime. The Burros (2-4, 0-3 SEC) outscored Kingsland by nine points in the second half (30-21) before the Knights held on for the 66-57 win.

“During the first half, we shot the ball really well,” said Kingsland coach John Fenske. “I think we went five trips in a row and hit a three-pointer. It was just one of those nights where everything was going in. Down the stretch when they got back into the game, we did just enough to hold on for the win.”

Good outside shooting will be a big key to success for the Knights this year as Fenske said “we basically put a team of five guards on the floor.” The team shot well outside the arc against Lanesboro, hitting a very-solid 42 percent of three-point shots (nine for 21). Overall, the team shot 21 for 50 from the field (42 percent).

The Knights almost put four players in double figures. Wyatt Pruter led the team with 25 points (four of six on threes) while grabbing seven rebounds, getting two assists and two blocked shots. Nick Wernimont and Zach Hauser each added 12 points, while Reid Kruegel had a solid all-around game with nine points and team-highs in rebounds (eight), assists (seven) and steals (six).

The only place the Knights didn’t shoot well was the free throw line. Kingsland hit 15 of 26 shots (57 percent). Kruegel hit four of six attempts and Merkel three of four.

“I thought we played pretty well defensively,” Fenske said. “There were a couple of times we lost their shooters but we’re still trying to fine-tune our defense. We played a two-three zone last year but switched to a one-three-one this season. We’re learning and they’re getting better every game.

“The big thing about switching to the one-three-one is the guys on the wings have to cover the box and they also have to guard against the three. They got to find the happy-medium spot that lets them get to both when they need to.”

The Knights grabbed 27 rebounds in the game (six offensive). Defensively, the team had 12 steals (two each for Wernimont, Pruter). Kingsland took good care of the ball, turning it over just 12 times against the Lanesboro defense.

Tied after three quarters in Iowa

The fourth quarter turned out to be the difference in a non-conference matchup against Crestwood on Saturday night at the Iowa-Minnesota Border Battle. Iowa basketball plays four quarters instead of two halves like Minnesota. The game was tied at 47-all after three quarters. Crestwood outscored the Knights 15-2 in the fourth quarter to put the game away at 62-49. Fenske said the team just couldn’t buy a basket in the fourth quarter.

“We were playing really well through three quarters,” Fenske said. “During the fourth quarter, our shots just quit going in. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a really good squad. However, we were right there with them until we couldn’t get our shots to drop.”

Only two Knights would finish in double figures. Pruter led the team with 17 points and a team-high five rebounds. Hauser chipped in 12 points and Reed Merkel had eight. Overall, the Knights hit only 17 of 53 shots (32 percent). They didn’t generate a lot of opportunities at the free throw line, getting only 14 attempts and hitting eight (57 percent).

“You have to give Crestwood a lot of credit for their defense,” Fenske said. “I think they wore us down a little bit in the fourth. We really had to work hard to get an open shot against them. We’re also looking to develop offensive consistency. We’ve shown flashes, now we need to put it together. We’re getting there.”

The Knights didn’t get a lot of second-chance opportunities. They grabbed just 17 boards in the game, with only three on the offensive end. Kruegel grabbed four rebounds.

After generating double-figures in steals against Lanesboro in the previous game, the Knight theft total dropped to just five steals (Kruegel three). However, the Knights didn’t give a lot of easy chances to Crestwood, turning the ball over just eight times.


Kingsland has a busy week ahead, which began already on Monday, Dec. 17, at home against one of the preseason SEC favorites in Spring Grove. The next night, it’s on the road against former Three Rivers Conference opponent Rushford-Peterson. The Knights wrap up the week Friday back in conference play at home against Houston.