February 4, 2010 at 9:38 a.m.
Despite a solid first half against a very good team, the Chisago Lakes Wildcats weren't able to earn their second win in a row for the first time this season.
"We played hard and stuck in there in the first half with good defense and good hustle," Head Coach Herb Jangor said.
The Wildcats needed that tough defense because besides junior Benji Figini, their offense wasn't clicking too much. Figini scored 14 of the Wildcats 23 points in the first half and the other nine came from three different players. Jordan Hickcox and Steven Ramberg both hit a three-pointer, and Jesse Patterson converted an and-one to give the 'Cats their 23 points.
It was just enough to have a slight lead at the end of the first half, too. They limited the high-scoring Knights, who hadn't scored less than 71 points in a game since Jan. 9, to 22 points in the opening half.
At the beginning of the second half, the Wildcats suddenly couldn't find the ways to score that they were in the opening frame, and their defense started to crumble under Irondale's pressure. "We gave up way too many points in a five or six minute stretch when we couldn't make any baskets," Jangor explained. "You can't beat a team that good with long lapses like that."
By then, however, the damage had already been done, and Irondale enjoyed a comfortable lead. The 'Cats played the Knights close the rest of the game, but they could never full recover from that rough six minute patch. "It was a good effort, and I'm proud of that effort," Jangor said. "We played well other than that stretch against a good team."
Although the Wildcats were in the game in the first half, it was in spite of their poor shooting from the three-point line. On the game, the boys were four-of-24 from beyond the arc. "That's just us not having the patience for a great shot. We're settling for average or good shots," Jangor said. "We need discipline and patience for great shots."
Figini ended the night with 22 points and nine rebounds.
St. Francis 57, Chisago Lakes 46
Despite their tough effort against the Knights, who were 4-1 in the North Suburban Conference heading into the game, the 'Cats had an equally unimpressive game against the St. Francis Saints, who were winless in conference play coming into the game. Overall, the Saints brought a 2-12 record with them, but the Wildcats played like the 2-12 team on the night.
"We didn't come ready to play against St. Francis," Jangor said. "St. Francis looked at it as a game they could win, and we couldn't match their intensity and played our worst game of the year. We got out-executed and out-hustled."
Figini had a slow first half, scoring only seven points for the Wildcats as they only scored 18 points total as St. Francis raced to a 27-18 lead at the break.
In the second half, Figini broke out of his slump, but no one around him could consistently make baskets, and it turned into an even shootout. The problem was, the Wildcats couldn't chip away at the lead as the Saints were scoring just as much as Figini was. "We told the guys that we can't survive with one guy scoring all of our points," Jangor said.
In the second half, Hickcox, Bryan Eichten and Eli Trochman each made one basket and Kyle Duncan made one free throw. Other than that, Figini scored the other 19 points in the half.
"Sometimes we have off nights, and it's just tough to have it against a beatable team," Jangor noted.
Other than Figini's 26 points and nine rebounds, Hickcox and Steve Ramberg had six points each.
Totino-Grace 78, Chisago Lakes 32
Things just got worse for the Wildcats when they face Totino-Grace. Heading into the game, the Eagles were 5-10 with a 1-6 mark in the conference.
Not only did the Wildcats struggle with Totino-Grace, they lost by 46 points. Although Jangor thought they played well in the first half, he said the Eagles just made some tough shots and the Wildcats couldn't buy an easy basket. "We missed a few easy opportunities and committed a few too many turnovers, and it was a big swing."
Despite being down by 16 points at halftime, the Wildcats weren't totally out of it until Totino went on a huge runs in the second half and outscored the Wildcats 41-11 in the half. "There was a total lack of trust in each other and our system in the second half," Jangor said. "Sometimes, when we get on the court, we forget what it takes to be successful. We always say play hard, play together and play smart, and we didn't do any of that, and until we do, we're going to get hammered by beatable teams."
Figini ended the game with 17 points and Hickcox had nine points in the losing effort. Only two other 'Cats even made baskets from the field on the night.