Irlbeck battles through illness to score 32 points in Redwood Valley's 85-79 win over JCC

In arguably its biggest game of the young season the Redwood Valley boys basketball team held on in the waning moments for an 85-79 win over visiting Jackson County Central Thursday night in a Big South West Conference showdown.
Leading 77-75 with just over two minutes to go, the Cardinals (8-4, 4-2) closed out the victory from the charity stripe, as junior Mitch Irlbeck calmly sunk eight straight free throws to help the Cards escape with the win and improve to 7-0 against Section 3AA opponents.
It was just the second loss of the season for the defending Section 3AA champion Huskies who dropped to 7-2.
“It was a great test for us to see how we would handle a close game against a quality opponent,” Coach Aaron Lindahl said. “I was really proud of our guys for not panicking when they cut the lead down to two, I thought we showed a lot of poise.”
It was an ugly first half for the Cardinals in their first action of the new year, as they struggled offensively and were forced into uncharacteristic turnovers.
Still, some key three pointers late from Dalton Siegfried and Kyle Huhnerkoch would have the Cards trailing by just one – 39-38 – at the half.
The two teams would trade buckets in the second half, eventually tieing 51-51 on a Cole Woodford three-pointer.
Later, another three by Woodford coupled with a long distance bomb from Thomas Benson gave the Cards their biggest lead of the game at 68-63.
The Cards were fortunate, as Husky standouts Jacob Christopher (24 points) and Ryan Christopher (16 points) both got into foul trouble in the second half, limiting their effectiveness.
James Pendleton would add a deuce, and, leading 70-63, the Cards would never relinquish control despite a late rally from the Huskies.
Irlbeck would score on a huge three-point play and then would close it out from the line with clutch free throws.
Despite battling the flu all day and almost not being able to participate, Irlbeck would finish with a game-high 32 points to go along with seven rebounds and two steals.
Pendleton added 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, and Woodford hit a trio of three pointers on the way to 11 points, seven assists and four boards.
Benson also hit a trio of three-point shots to finish with nine points and three rebounds, Logan Josephson added five points and four boards, Siegfried had three points and three rebounds, Huhnerkoch added three points and two rebounds and Deo Charles knocked down a three. The Cards were 11-of-31 shooting from long range and were a big 14-of-15 from the free throw line.
“It’s early, but hopefully we can build on this win moving forward,” Lindahl said. “I thought we really stayed within ourselves and didn’t get too high or too low during the course of the game.”
The Cardinals were back in action Friday night at Worthington and fell 81-79 in double overtime but would defeat New Ulm Monday 86-77.

Redwood Valley                    85
Jackson County Central         79
Cardinal scoring - Irlbeck 32, Pendleton 19, Woodford 11, Benson 9, Josephson 5, Charles 3, Siegfried 3, Huhnerkoch 3
Husky scoring - J. Christopher 24, R. Christopher 16, Voss 12, Gumto 10, Bargfrede 6, Bahr 5, Klontz 4, Heinrichs 2