ROGERS — Of all the area basketball teams, none got a longer winter break than the Maple Valley High School boys.
Until Saturday's 66-46 win at Barnes County North, it had been nearly three weeks since the team took the floor in a 56-41 win against North Sargent Dec. 17.
So while it wasn't a picture perfect start in the first game back, the Raiders eventually settled in by the second half to run away with the win.
"We had a few cobwebs that we had to dust off," said Maple Valley coach Jay Kocka. "Once we got in the game situations, I thought in the second half our guys played a lot harder, worked harder, forced some good turnovers and executed better.
"The second half was better and it's only going to get better with more game experience here now."
Not that the first half was much to complain about, other than a slower start to the scoring.
The Raiders took the first lead of the game on free throws by Ty Smith.
Less than a minute and a half in, BCN's Cody Christ tied it on a layup. Shortly after, BCN's Derek Fletcher gave the Bison the lead after hitting a short two-point shot to make it 4-2.
Then, Maple Valley went on its first of three big scoring runs throughout the game and had 10 of the game's next 12 points to take a 12-6 lead with 1:38 left in the quarter.
BCN narrowed the lead to 14-11 to end the quarter and started the second quarter with a four-point play by Derek Fletcher, who hit a 3-pointer and was fouled. He hit the ensuing free throw to make it 15-14 with 7:52 left in the game.
It was the last lead the Raiders got.
Immediately following the play, the Raiders went into full gear defensively, playing a tight man-to-man. Similar to other runs in the game, the aggressiveness led to turnovers for the Bison and points for Maple Valley.
In the second quarter, the run was 16-4 and gave the Raiders a 30-19 lead, which Maple Valley cut to 30-23 by halftime.
"I thought defensively we forced turnovers and that's what we want to do," Kocka said. "We get out and run and I think our guys run the floor really, really well."
In the first two and a half minutes of the third quarter, the Bison made one last effort to narrow the lead.
Maple Valley's Smith started the half off with two layups to make it 34-23, but BCN then went on a brief run and cut the lead to 36-30 after a 3-pointer by Fletcher with 5:45 in the quarter.
After that, the Raiders broke away on a 17-5 run to end the quarter up 54-35.
They then outscored BCN 12-11 in the fourth quarter and ended the game with a short buzzer beater by Travis Pfau.
Maple Valley was led in scoring by Ethen Preston with 17 points. Smith finished with 14 and Wade Steidl had 13.
BCN was led in scoring by Fletcher, who had 18 points, including three 3-pointers. Syatt Steckler and Brad Clemens had nine each.
BCN coach Stacy Schaffer was pleased with his team's effort despite the loss.
"The defense has been there," he said. "We gave up 66, which isn't too bad. It's a little more than what I wanted but the defense is still there. Offensively we still need some things clicking, but overall the kids are playing pretty good."
MV girls beat BCN
In the opening minutes of Saturday’s 50-41 win at Barnes County North, Rylee Nudell seemed to do almost whatever she wanted to.
In the first three minutes of the game, the eighth grader scored the team’s first eight points, was relentless in the paint and even had an assist to Cassie Pautz to make the game 10-2 with 4:50 left in the quarter.
The opening run ultimately made the difference as the Raiders fended off a scrappy BCN team that was two days removed from a 36 point loss.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” said Maple Valley coach Jeff Miller. “They’re a tough team, a scrappy team and they never stopped.”
The Raiders had an 18-9 lead at the end of the quarter, and were up 32-20 at halftime.
But using balanced play and a tight defensive zone, the Bison turned a 15 point, 36-21 deficit with 6:47 left in the third into a five point deficit by with 6:42 left in the game.
The comeback was sparked by play from Jenna Gullickson, who had five points late in the third quarter and two more early in the fourth.
In the final 6:17 of the game, Maple Valley’s Pautz scored six of the team’s 10 points.
Pautz finished the game with 18 points and Nudell had 16.
Gullickson led BCN with 13.