By Brady Ambrose
St. Charles junior Devin Decker scored off a missed free throw attempt by Aaron Leistikow with 2.9 seconds left in the game to give the Saints a wild, 71-70 win over Caledonia at CHS Friday night.
Decker grabbed the offensive rebound when Leistikow missed the back-end of a bonus free throw that cut Caledonia’s lead to 70-69 and scored at the buzzer to give St. Charles their first conference win.
Decker’s game-winner capped a crazy series of events that saw the Warriors take off on a 21-6 run in the first half, led by senior Alex Varney and sophomore Kyle Sorenson.
Varney hit five 3-point shots and finished with 14 points in the first half, and Sorenson added 14 more as the Warriors held a 39-38 lead at the break. “At halftime we were all right,” said Caledonia coach Josh Diersen, “But we gave up too many fouls and layups all night. They didn’t shoot the ball that well but they got a lot of layups and we need to correct that.”
The Saints bolted out of the gate and quickly grabbed a 16-8 lead that they extended to 24-13 with 12:10 left in the first half. A basket by Sorenson capped a 7-0 run that pulled Caledonia within four at 24-20, and the sophomore hit his only trey of the game at the 7:45 mark to pull the Warriors even closer at 24-23. With the score tied at 28 all Varney then hit back-to-back threes to give the Warriors a 34-30 lead that put the exclamation point on the Warriors furious run.
St. Charles then scored with 17 seconds left in the half when Caledonia’s Nathan Rohrer fouled Taylor Johnson as Johnson was attempting a 3-pointer. Johnson made two of three free throws but Leistikow grabbed the miss on the third attempt and scored to cut Caledonia’s lead to 37-36. Leistikow was then fouled by Rohrer with 5.5 seconds to play in the half and made two free throws to put St. Charles in the lead at 38-37. Varney was then fouled by St. Charles’ Dakota Rico with 1.1 seconds left on the clock, and Varney made two free throws to give the Warriors a 39-38 lead after a wild first half.
The teams then battled back and forth for much of the second half. Caledonia got a huge spark from junior West Spier, who put down two monster dunks off of steals at the start of the half. Spier’s first slam came at the 15:29 mark and gave the Warriors a 44-40 lead. His second one, less than a minute later, kept the lead to four points at 46-42, but the Saints tied the game at 46 all on a basket by Leistikow.
Caledonia regained the lead with 8:40 to play on a three by Rohrer that gave Caledonia a 57-56 lead. A basket by Sorenson pushed the Warriors lead to 65-60 with six minutes to play. When Spier scored the Warriors led 67-60 at the 5:32 mark.
Diersen said, “West gave us a spark. We had a seven point lead there and after some momentum like that we need to lock it in and play defense, but we started reaching more and continued to give up layups and then we got in foul trouble after that too.”
The Saints then cut into the lead when Decker hit a trey with 3:33 left and was then fouled by Kevin Lapham on the Saints next possession, making two free throws to pull St. Charles within three points at 69-66 with 3:21 left. With 94 seconds left Varney – who after scoring 14 points in the first half was held to just two shots in the second half – was fouled and made one free throw to give the Warriors a 70-66 lead. Lapham was then fouled as well with 1:11 to play, but Lapham failed to convert a free throw to keep the score 70-66. The Saints got within a basket at 70-68, and the Warriors were on the verge of victory as they brought the ball down the court.
With 17 seconds left Varney missed a shot in the lane and the Saints grabbed the rebound. St. Charles nearly won the game when Chase Busian’s rainbow 3–point attempt rattled in and out of the basket. But the Saints grabbed the rebound and Varney fouled Leistikow with 2.9 seconds to play.
Leistikow made the first free throw and the Warriors called a time out. After the break Leistikow missed the second shot that would have tied the game at 70 all, but Decker picked the ball clean out of the air and put it back in at the buzzer for the win.
Leistikow had 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Decker added 14 for the Saints while Kyle Sorenson led Caledonia with 17 points.
“We’ll get back to work – that’s what is great about these guys – we have a lot of young guys playing a lot of minutes,” Diersen said. Caledonia will travel to Wabasha-Kellogg Friday night after hosting Lewiston-Altura Tuesday night.
On Dec. 11 Caledonia hammered Chatfield 68-32 at Chatfield as they jumped out to a 37-16 lead at halftime. Alex Varney led the Warriors with 22 points, and Kevin Lapham added 11 in the win.
ST. CHARLES 71,
St. C 38 33 — 71
Caledonia 39 31 — 70
ST. CHARLES (2-3, 1-3): Mercer 11, Reisdorf 2, Busian 12, Leistikow 28, Johnston 4, Decker 14.
CALEDONIA (2-1, 2-1): Rohrer 7, Varney 15, Kilger 2, Sorenson 17, Bauer 5, Lapham 12, Spier 12.