By Brady Ambrose
The Caledonia boys rebounded in a big way after a tough loss last week as they battered Lewiston-Altura 61 to 34 at CHS Tuesday night.
Coach Josh Diersen’s team, looking to get back on track after a heart-breaking, last second loss to Chatfield Dec. 11, hit seven, first half 3-pointers and used a stifling defense to hold the Cardinals to 14 percent shooting from the floor in the first 18 minutes to build a 35-11 halftime lead.
Picked by some to be the team to beat in the TRC, the Cardinals (4-3) quickly were taken out of the game by the Warrior defense, which crashed the boards on nearly every shot and was “eating glass,” according to Diersen. “The effort that we had was great. Every one of their shots was contested.”
Other than a 3-pointer by Destin Dowler on their first possession of the game, the Cardinals went stone cold, making just three other shots the entire first half. In the meantime, Caledonia, which held a 10-8 lead midway through the half, went on a 21-2 run when Kyle Sorenson, Alex Varney, Austin Bauer and Andrew Kilger all connected from beyond the three-point arc to put the game out of reach before the first half ended at 31-8 with 3:08 left.
A basket by Lewiston-Altura’s Josh Ehlenfeldt with 2:27 to play in the half broke a nearly eight and a half minute scoring drought for the Cardinals. “Our guys gave a great effort tonight. We got Josh Nord back tonight and we pretty much had a nine-man rotation. Anybody coming off the bench brings energy,” Diersen said.
The Warriors made shooting the 3-ball look easy as Sorenson’s first one of the game gave the Warriors a 10-3 lead. After the Cardinals closed the gap to 10-8, the sophomore hit another one for a 13-8 Caledonia lead. Then Varney hit one for a 17-8 lead.
Bauer hit his own at the 5:46 mark to push the lead to 20-8, and Varney gave the Warriors a 25-8 cushion less than a minute later with another trey. Kilger then made another from downtown for a 23 point lead that finally forced L-A coach Brian Menk to call a time out and try to stop the downpour.
Varney hit a pair of free throws with less than a minute to play to give Caledonia the 35-11 lead at the break. “We got good shots, our post finished, offensively we are going to score, defensively we said we have to be consistent and in the first half we were,” Diersen said. “In the second half we gave up a few too many easy shots, but that first half effort was something else, and that’s what we expect out of our guys.”
The Warriors put the game on ice with an 8-2 run to open up the second half taking a 43-13 lead on a 3-pointer from Bauer with 14:38 to play. Sorenson hit another three seven minutes later for a 51-29 lead, and senior Andy Li put the finishing touches on the night when he hit a pair of three-pointers in the final 26 seconds of the game for the 61-34 final.
“I told the guys that I like watching them play defense,” Diersen said. “We like what’s going on right now.” The Warriors will travel to La Crescent Dec. 26 for a holiday tournament where they will take on Spring Grove at 6 p.m.