Digging deep in the final seven minutes the Redwood Valley Cardinals pulled away for a 68-60 win over rival Worthington Friday night in a big SWC boys basketball showdown.
Once again the unbeaten Cardinals (11-0) were up to the task, outscoring the Trojans (8-4) 35-27 in the second half to improve to 6-0 in SWC play, two games ahead of Marshall.
“I think the intensity we brought to the floor on Friday night was the best we’ve had all season,” senior Mike Busack said, “Right now we can’t be content and need to keep working hard in practice, especially on defense because that helps motor our offense.”
Busack - who had battled the flu leading up to tip-off - came through with a clutch peformance, scoring a game-high 31 points to go along with five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Fellow senior Beau Stough proved to be the sparkplug for the Cardinals in the trenches as he went 10-of-14 from the field to finish with 20 points and seven boards.
Stough - in just his first year as a starter and only his second year of organized basketball - has been a huge part of the Cardinals success this season.
“Most of the credit goes to Coach Okeson,” Stough said, “He puts us in the best situation to win each night.”
Steven?Runkel added seven points and two assists and Adam Hengel had five critical points in one sequence in the second half.
The Cards won despite an uncharacteristic off night from guard Alec Koster who had just three points (1-of-6 shooting) but added three steals and four assists.
Redwood Valley shot a scorching 59 percent from the floor, hit 9-of-14 from the charity stripe and commited just eight turnovers.
The Cardinals - ranked eighth in the latest Class AA?poll - will face third-ranked Montevideo (9-3) at home Thursday night in a Section 3AA-North preview.
Two of the Thunderhawks losses are to ranked Class AAA teams in Spring Lake Park (83-71) and Mankato East (81-77). They’ve also split a pair of games against Marshall, winning on opening night 66-63 and losing more recently 71-65.
A year ago the Cardinals fell 70-63 on the road at Montevideo but rallied from down 13 points in the Section 3AA-North title game to win 62-60 on a last second three-pointer by Busack.
“The Montevideo game will be a great test for us as I think we are pretty similar teams,”?Busack said, “We want to prove that we can play with some of the best teams in the state and this will be an opportunity to do that.”
As of right now, the Cardinals and Thunderhawks are in good shape to claim the top two seeds in the North with Lake Crystal/Welcome-Memorial (10-3) on their heels.
Page 2 of 2 - Fairmont (11-2), Windom?Area (11-3), Worthington and Luverne (8-5) will fight it out for the top four seeds in the South.
Still unbeaten, the Cardinals are hoping to continue their strong play heading into the final half of the season.
“I think the fact that we’re all good friends off the court as well as on it is the main reason we have so much chemistry right now,” Stough said,?“We’re not gonna let up.”
Redwood Valley 68
Cardinal scoring - Busack 31, Stough 20, Runkel 7, Hengel 5, Koster 3, Ford 2
Trojan scoring - Weg 20, Traylor 11, Weller 10, Wetering 9, Henning 6, Potter 4