by Jason Olson
Spring Lake Park boys’ basketball looked far from a perfect team following its season opening 59-49 win over Mounds View in front of the friendly home crowd Dec. 14.
The Panthers (1-0) finally began the 2010-11 campaign in what coach Grant Guzy said was the latest date he could remember with some sloppiness on both ends of the court. The original home and season opener scheduled for Dec. 11 against Centennial was pushed back to Jan. 22 after Saturday’s snowstorm.
Guzy said the late start is good and bad; good that they were able to prepare longer for the season and bad in that the Panthers will play three times a week for three straight weeks in January to fit all of the games in.
Spring Lake Park used its defense in the first half to frustrate the Mustangs (0-3) into not sending the ball into the paint after multiple turnovers. Perimeter shooting didn’t work either for the visitors who entered halftime down 28-20.
“Their pressure disrupted us greatly and we couldn’t make a shot,” Mounds View coach Zig Kauls said, ironically, after Cole Thayer made a three pointer as the final buzzer sounded.
“We defended with a lot of intensity in the first half,” Guzy said, led by guard Derek Dahl who teamed with Alex Mercer and 6-3 center Justin Axelson in the middle to disrupt what the Mustangs wanted to do.
“Alex is really a guy we can play anywhere,” Guzy said. “He made some nice steals on the interior tonight, but what really impressed me tonight is that we had contributions from all 10 guys.
“Our game plan was to attack them and get into as many double teams and not give them clean looks at the basket and I think we did that well.”
Not having the services of junior forward Sean Scott and sophomore forward Robert Ben for the first half didn’t prove to be as dire as Guzy thought. Spring Lake Park held the two out of the first half of Tuesday’s game and will do the same for Friday’s game at St. Michael-Albertville after violating team policy.
Scott finished with eight points, many coming by way of highly emotional plays including a dunk.
On the offensive side of the floor it was junior guard Bryce Williams who emerged as the go-to shooter for the Panthers with a game-high 17 points of which 12 points came in the second half. He made four, three-pointers.
Junior guard Jordan Thimmesch-Slepica gave the home team two players in double-digits with his 13 points.
The Panthers made 11-of-17 free throws while the Mustangs converted 16-of-28, as they began a march to the line in the second half, making back-to-back three-point plays.
Jason Olson is at email@example.com.