Poor first halves have plagued the Portage boys basketball team this season and Thursday night was no different.
The Warriors struggled to get into their offensive set early and because of it, dug too deep of a halftime hole en route to a 79-54 loss to Mt. Horeb in a Badger North Conference game at Portage High School. Seniors Eli Considine and Connor Levander each scored in double-figures to lead Portage, which dropped its third consecutive game of the New Year.
“We did a lot of individual stuff and we didn’t move the ball well,” Portage coach Ron Olson. “We didn’t execute some offensive things we’ve been trying to work on here, and some little things we’ve tried to clean up just didn’t exist tonight.”
Those shortcomings came to the forefront late in the first half when the Vikings (7-0 Badger North, 10-3) seized control. After falling behind by 15 at 27-11, Portage (2-5, 4-8) used a 5-0 spurt to pull within 27-16.
After Levander buried a 3-pointer from the right corner, senior Kaden Lehman added a mid-range jumper to cut the gap to 11 with 5 minutes left in the first half. The Warriors failed to build off the momentum however as the Vikings finished off the half on a 16-2 run.
Senior Logan Rasmussen sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers between a mid-range jumper from Considine to give the Vikings a 33-18 lead before Mt. Horeb added 10 more points to take a 43-18 lead into the break. Throughout the first half, the Warriors took quick shots, often leading to long rebounds and quick transition buckets for the Vikings.
“When you take those quick shots on the offensive end, they lead to quick run outs going the other way,” Olson said. “We had a handful of those and you get those breakaway plays like that, it’s a momentum builder for them.”
Out of the break, things didn’t get much better for the Warriors as Mt. Horeb built off its 25-point cushion. The Vikings opened the final 18 minutes on a 17-4 run, including six points from senior Jason Larson and four from senior Gunnar Nortman, to take a 60-22 lead with 13:50 left to play.
Facing a near 40-point hole, the Warriors didn’t pack in the tent but rather battled back. Portage began to work offensively and cut the lead to 72-35 before finishing the game on a 19-7 run. Considine had eight points during the stretch while junior Colton Brandsma added all four of his.
“I was really disappointed at halftime, but I thought our kids came out in the second half and played with some effort,” Olson said.
Along with early shots, the Mt. Horeb defense frustrated the Warriors all night long. The Vikings utilized their length to pressure Portage out top and clog up the lane to make it difficult to drive to the basket.
“They play the packline (defense) really well and they protect the paint,” Olson said. “They’ve got some length and passing lanes shut down, but that means we have to be stronger with the basketball make hard cuts and just run our offense.”
While Considine scored a game-high 25 and Levander added 15, no other Warrior had more than four points. Meanwhile, Larson scored a team-high 18 and Nortman added 16 for the Vikings, who had five other players with five or more.
With the first half of the league slate now in the rear-view mirror, Olson said that the remedy for the ailing Warriors is simple.
“We just need to trust our offense,” he said. “Move the ball side-to-side — it needs to touch a lot of people’s hands — and we’ll naturally get some good shots.”
MT. HOREB 79, PORTAGE 54
Mount Horeb 43 36 — 79
Portage 18 36 — 54
MT. HOREB — Zenz 2 0-0 5, Farnsworth 2 1-1 7, Nortman 6 4-5 16, Larson 9 0-0 18, Rasmussen 3 0-0 9, Gilkes 2 2-2 6, Post 4 0-0 8, Smith 1 1-1 3, Bagstad 0 0-1 0, Ziegler 1 0-0 3, Ryan 2 0-0 4. Totals 32 8-10 79.
PORTAGE — Levander 6 1-1 15, Considine 10 3-3 25, Sheppard 1 0-0 2, Lehman 1 0-0 2, Jahn 1 0-0 2, Brandsma 1 2-2 4, Schultz 1 0-0 2, Bass 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 6-6 54.
3-point goals — MH 7 (Zenz 1, Farnsworth 2, Rasmussen 3, Ziegler 1), POR 4 (Levander 2, Considine 2). Total fouls — MH 5, POR 14.