Arrows stumble in closing stages of 62-60 Big South Conference loss to Cardinals

Pipestone Area senior guard Merrick Heidebrink is surrounded by Redwood Valley defenders as he drives to the basket in the first half of Friday night’s Big South Conference boys’ basketball game in Pipestone. K. Kyle

Looking to wrap up a home/away Big South Conference series sweep of the visiting Redwood Valley Cardinals Friday night in Pipestone, the Pipestone Area boys’ basketball team was on task through 30 minutes of the 36-minute tilt.
However, leading by nine points (58-49) with 5:31 to play, the Arrows (10-7) became complement and lost sight of the Cardinals’ perimeter threats – allowing the visitors to pilfer a 62-60 victory.
“We executed poorly defensively, let those ‘identified’ shooters get shots off,” Pipestone Area head coach Michael Slaba said. “We knew they were going to come back on us at some point and knew we wanted to limit that to 2×2 not 3×3. We allowed that to happen and became stagnant on offense.
“I felt comfortable with how we were playing defensively, but we kind of screwed it up by slowing the tempo – in this instance. Certainly, those are learning opportunities for us – for sure.”
Although Elijah Larsen, absent from the series opener, made a meager 6-point contribution in the first half, the Arrows appeared to have the contest well in control in the first period – claiming leads as big as 11 points with two minutes remaining. Senior post Kellen Johnson (12 rebounds) got off the mark well for the Arrows inside, dropping in eight of his 18 points in the opening stanza, while classmate Merrick Heidebrink (18 points, six assists) slowly found his range from the perimeter and off the dribble drive.
Oliver Smith and Larsen managed to keep RWV in the hunt with the odd field goal before Lukas Means (16 points) could dial in the cylinder’s coordinates and sink a pair of treys from the left flank. His back-to-back efforts trimmed the deficit to five points (20-15) only to see Heidebrink counter with two three-pointers wrapped around 2-of-2 from the free throw line two minutes prior to the interval.
However, before the horn, Larsen and Means countered a pair of successful free throws from Caden Strasser (10 points, four rebounds, two blocks) and a Johnson field goal with a trey apiece – leaving the visitors down by nine (32-23) at the break.
The Arrows added to their seemingly comfortable tally through Heidebrink and Johnson to open the final period, but the efforts of Larsen and Means waylaid further advances until Elway Berg could bring his scoring touch to the fray. The sophomore, who played well in the Cardinals’ narrow B-squad victory, sank a lengthy deuce before hitting back-to-back treys with 9:16 to play – pulling RWV to within six (46-40) points.
Johnson and Strasser quelled the Cardinal advance with a string of inside buckets and Heidebrink answered a Means’ bomb with one of his own in helping the Arrows retain their nine-point lead with 5:30 to go.
But neither Berg nor Means was finished from the perimeter. The former canned his third trey of the tilt (3-for-6 for the game) and the latter hit a runner from the baseline to the left of the hoop to whittle the deficit to five points (58-54). Smith followed with a three-pointer from the right corner and the Cardinals were down by a marker (58-57) with 2:25 to play.

Pipestone Area senior Caden Strasser drops in a putback basket in the first half of Friday night’s Big South Conference boys’ basketball game in Pipestone. K. Kyle

“Their No. 2 (Elijah Larsen), obviously, didn’t play the first time and he’s a heckuva player – creates a lot of things,” Slaba said. “No. 11 (Means), we’d known he had had a couple 25-30-point games before us, so we made sure we took care of him in the first meeting. We didn’t do a very good job locating him at our place. So, the urgency in the second half wasn’t quite there and we looked a little slow. We’ll have to get some conditioning in and get our feet back under ourselves.”
Out of a timeout, the Arrows couldn’t get to the rack and Heidebrink was whistled for an offensive foul. The Cardinals worked the ball around for their shot, fired off by Means, who found ample time to successfully pull up from three-point range – lifting the visitors to a 60-58 lead with 48 seconds to play. Johnson was fouled converting from in paint, but his free throw was off the mark.
Still, a stop made with 10.2 seconds gave the Arrows the ball back with plenty of time to set up a winning look at the basket. Unfortunately for the hosts, a steal by Berg gave the visitors three opportunities at the PAS rim, the third of which was converted by Frank Cohen off his own rebound at the buzzer – lifting RWV to victory.
“There are some good things we did; we executed well in certain portions of the game that were crucial for us to keep the lead, but there at the end… we didn’t,” Slaba said. “I can call those moments positive, but really, they’re learning moments.
“It’s not the end of the season, not the final game, but we have to use this… how do we know what not to do? How do we go out and win the game rather than prevent losing? I think that part of it starts with execution and doing the things we need to do – sealing guys off so a defender can’t get the pass – that kind of stuff.”
Rysley Borman finished with nine points, five rebounds for the Arrows, while Tagon Woelber added a bucket, a rebound and four assists. Breylon Kuiper had three points and a rebound and Landon Quist finished with two rebounds and a steal.
The Arrows host the Fairmont Cardinals in the nightcap of Thursday night’s Big South Conference girl/boy doubleheader in Pipestone.

SJ 28 41 – 67
PAS 36 39 – 75

R-T-R 88, Ortonville 36
R-T-R 76, Canby 61
The Knights improved to 17-0 with a lopsided Camden Conference victory over the Trojans Monday night in Ortonville.
Drew Werkman had 21 points to go with six rebounds in pacing the Knights Monday night. Aiden Wichmann added 14 points and three assists, while Matt Weber (eight rebounds) and Camden Hansen (four rebounds, two assists) finished with eight points apiece. Tucker Haroldson had seven points, Skyelar Martinez and Hayden Gravley had five points apiece and Blake Christianson, Cody Wichmann and Carson Gylling posted four points apiece.
Werkman and Hansen led the charge for the Knights Friday night in Tyler, posting 16 points, eight rebounds and 16 points, three rebounds, two steals, two assists, respectively against the Canby Lancers. Aiden Wichmann finished with 12 points and five assists, while Weber added eight points.
Christianson, Haroldson and Gravley had six points apiece versus the Lancers.
The Knights will host the Minneota Vikings in Camden Conference action Thursday night in Tyler.