The Valley City High School boys basketball team did plenty of things right in its 49-43 season-opening loss to Wahpeton Friday at the Hi-Liner Activity Center, but at times, the ball just didn't seem to want to go in the hoop.
"They rebounded hard, they played defense hard. I thought we outhustled them and we outworked them, but our shooting percentage, we just couldn't overcome that," VCHS coach Scott Hurlimann said, citing a combined 7-20 performance at the free-throw line and 2-18 from the 3-point line. "We have to shoot better."
It was shooting that often seemed contagious.
In both halves, the Hi-Liners scored an early two before going scoreless for at least seven minutes. But when the team found its rhythm late in the halves, they looked good, outscoring the Huskies 12-4 in the final four and a half minutes of the first half and 12-5 in the final 4:09 of the second game.
The run in the first half gave VCHS a 24-23 halftime lead and the second-half run nearly overcame a 15-point deficit that was a result of the poor shooting.
With 4:09 left in the game, Austin Svenningsen hit a layup to narrow Wahpeton's lead to 45-33. Tayler Lentz then scored two layups in two minutes to make it 45-37. A layup by Mason Denholm got it down to 45-39 with 1:40 left to play.
When Wahpeton went to the free-throw line to put three times in the next minute of play, the Huskies connected on only one of four free throws to make it 46-39.
Though Denholm and Carpenter hit shots before the game's end, Wahpeton had points from Jack Christensen and Alex Lunneborg to put it away.
The free throw shooting was a disappointment for Wahpeton coach Jeff Ralph.
"When you look at the end of the game, I thought free throws were really a key," he said. "We could have maybe iced the game with a couple of free throws."
But even with the misses, the Huskies had enough of a built up lead to withstand a late the Valley City rally in the final four minutes. It was a rally preceded by the Hi-Liners' shooting struggles, which resulted in the team scoring only seven points in the 16 minutes prior.
After going up 24-23 at halftime, VC started the half with a midrange shot by Tayler Lentz to go up 26-23. It was the only shot the Hi-Liners connected on for over ten minutes.
Meanwhile, Wahpeton got on a roll, getting a layup from Christensen and a long shot from Blaze Irwin to go up 17-26 with 16 minutes left in the game. Christensen followed the shot with a steal in the defensive half that he took all the way back for a quick layup to make it 29-26.
The Huskies spent the rest of the game getting strong shooting from Irwin, Lunneborg and Christensen, getting the lead as high as 41-26 before Valley City scored again on a 3-pointer by Chase Carpenter, who was limited in the second half due to double and triple teams.
A midrange shot by Mason Denholm narrowed it to 41-31 with 6:45 left to play, but shots by Lunneborg and Parker Sirek got the lead up to 45-31 with 4:15 left. Valley City then went on its 12-5 run to end the game.
The first half played out similarly with Wahpeton scoring the first points of the game. Valley City then tied 2-2 with 16:11 left in the half. Wahpeton then took the lead as the Hi-Liners struggled to score and fell behind 11-2 with 9:41 left in the half.
Wahpeton then went up again, but Valley City finished the half on a 12-4 run in the final four and a half minutes.
Regarding the shooting struggles, Hurlimann said the issue was more about confidence than shot selection.
"I didn't think we took too many bad shots, but we just need to knock down the ones that we have," he said. "That's basically what it comes down to."
He credited his defense, however, with keeping the game close with its scrappy, aggressive play that led to numerous turnovers.
"They were husting all over the place, they were getting turnovers, they were diving all over the place," Hurlimann said. "That's what we want, that effort there. If we have that type of effort every time, our shots are going to fall and we're going to score some points.
Valley City was led by post player Carpenter, who had 16 points. He had 11 in the first half, but faced double and triple teams in the second and was limited to five points.
Irwin and Christensen both led Wahpeton with 13 points each.
The Hi-Liners return to the court Tuesday to start the Barnes County Tournament at W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse on the Valley City State University Campus. The Hi-Liners tip off at 7:30 p.m. against Griggs County Central.
BCN Boys Lose
The Barnes County North boys basketball team lost 68-40 to Carrington Friday in Wimbledon.
The Bison kept it close early, tying it 19-19 at the end of the the first quarter, but were outscored 16-5 in the second and never recovered.
Tim Erker led BCN with 14 points and Brad Clemens had 10.
The Bison play in the Barnes County Tournament Tuesday.
Maple Valley Wins Two
The Maple Valley basketball team had 28 points from James Richman in a 72-43 win at Oakes Saturday.
The Raiders led 43-21 at halftime and never let up.
Jordan Haseleu also had 17 points for the Raiders in the win.
The Raiders also beat Enderlin 63-55 on the road Friday.
Haseleu had 30 points in the win.
The Raiders play in the Barnes County Tournament starting Tuesday.