December 30, 2009 at 2:18 p.m.

Wildcats earn gritty second win of season

Behind Bryan Eichten’s toughness and Benji Figini’s offense, Chisago Lakes snapped their five-game losing streak vs MW
Wildcats earn gritty second win of season
Wildcats earn gritty second win of season

Chisago Lakes 66, Mound Westonka 60

After a season-opening win over the Princeton Tigers, the Chisago Lakes boys basketball team had struggled to find any rhythm, and in turn, struggled to find any success.

They had lost five straight before they hosted the Mound Westonka White Hawks just before Christmas on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Coming into the game, the Hawks sported a 3-2 record compared to the Wildcats' 1-5 mark.

None of that mattered, however, when the teams stepped on to the court.

The Wildcats were just sick of losing. Senior leader Bryan Eichten was particularily sick of losing. "We need more toughness out of our kids like Bryan Eichten displayed last week," Head Coach Herb Jangor said. "He was grabbing every rebound, battling through screens, going after loose balls. Bryan Eichten wouldn't let us lose this game."

The 'Cats looked like they might be in some trouble in the first half, trailing by eight points late in the stanza. However, a key moment occurred when talented junior Benji Figini passed up a decent shot to dish the ball off to a wide-open Steve Ramberg, who drilled a three-pointer to cut the lead to five.

"We need to have the patience to get a great shot," Jangor said. "We've been settling for decent shots when we need to have patience for the great ones."

That sequence was the start of a 10-0 run for the Wildcats, highlighted by another Ramberg three-pointer. "We really have to trust the system and trust each other," Jangor explained. He followed by saying they only trust each other and the system in spurts, but this was one of them.

The offensive highlight of the first half was Figini. He scored 12 of the Wildcats' 31 points and really fed off of the energy provided by Ramberg and Eichten.

At halftime, the Wildcats enjoyed a one-point cushion over the visiting White Hawks and they slowly started to build a lead that they wouldn't relinquish in the second half.

Another 13 points by Figini and seven scrappy points from Eichten led the offensive charge in the second half, and the balance in scoring really started to wear on the White Hawks.

"We just hadn't played good yet this year since the Princeton game," Jangor said. "We just don't understand our identity."

But, with Eichten, Figini and Ramberg scoring in double digits, things started to fall in place for the Wildcats. Scoring wasn't the only role Jangor needed to fill, though.

Jangor said Kyle Duncan provided a lot of hustle and brought some consistency to the 'Cats, going four-for-four from the free throw line. He also pointed at senior Tyler Keesee as a key member of the team. "Tyler goes out and does what he can to be successful," he said. "He is a great teammate for these guys."

Despite a tough effort from the White Hawks, the Wildcats combined effort kept them at bay and earned the 'Cats their second win at home on the season, and upped their record to 2-5.

"We have to keep building on this foundation. We have a strong foundation, but we are just satisfied some nights. We have to get back to the nuts and bolts. We can't just be satisfied, we have to expand our horizons and basketball players and as individuals."

The offensive charge was led by Figini, who scored 25 points on eight-of-13 shooting. He also nabbed 11 rebounds and had two assists and two steals.

Eicthen, the scrapper who simply fills up the stat sheet, but also provides the hustle and leadership that doesn't show up in the box score, scored 12 points, had 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. He was five-of-nine from the field.

Ramberg scored 10 points, including the two big threes at the end of the first half, and Jordan Hickcox, Eli Trochman and Joe Fernstrom all added five points for the 'Cats.

"We just have to keep getting better. We have to get back to playing basketball the way this program is used to. Hard-nosed, tough, fun basketball," Jangor said. "The kids are still working, and they keep getting better. They understand they are working for a goal."


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