NECEDAH — In its first game of the Necedah Holiday Classic, the Cardinals boys basketball team put together one of its stronger offensive performances of the season. By the second day, however, the Cardinals seemed to run out of steam.
Necedah (4-3) kicked things off Thursday, Dec. 28 against the Pittsville Panthers (1-7). The Cardinals struggled in the first half and led just 24-23 at halftime, but turned things around in the early stages of the second half.
Though Necedah built its lead up to as much as 16 at one point, Pittsville would not go away quietly. Down the stretch, the Panthers seemed to be nearly automatic from deep, hitting a barrage of 3-pointers to keep themselves in the game.
However, the Cardinals hit enough free throws late in the game and Pittsville finally cooled off in the waning second of the game to allow them to hang on for the 65-56 victory. The 65 points are a season-high for Necedah.
“It was nice to get the W, but we looked rusty,” Necedah coach Kris Saylor said. “We didn’t defend as well as we liked — that’s the disappointing part — but our fans might be happy we did score a couple more points for them.”
Sophomore guard Jaron Murphy led all Cardinals scorers with 17 points. Senior guard Miles Saylor finished with 15 points, senior forward Tyler Reichel added 11 points and senior guard Noah Waltemath chipped in 10 points.
Meanwhile for the Panthers, sophomore forward Matthew Kissner led the way with 17 points, including going 5 for 6 from 3-point range, senior guard Luke Denniston scored 14 points and senior guard Bailey Herkert finished with 13 points. As a team, Pittsville went 13 of 26 from beyond the arc.
In the following day’s contest against the Port Edwards Blackhawks (9-1) Friday, Dec. 29, both teams showed signs of fatigue from playing a second game in 24 hours.
Port Edwards looked the better of the two teams to start the game, quickly grabbing a 12-4 lead. Necedah struck back with a 9-0 run of its own to briefly take a 13-12 lead, but the Blackhawks finished the half strong to take a 24-18 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, fatigue began to rear its head.
Both teams struggled to hit jumpers throughout the game’s final 18 minutes, and the two teams combined to score just 32 points in the second half. Though the Cardinals cut the lead down to two on a few occasions and stayed within striking distance the whole way, but failed to ever tie the game or take the lead. Port Edwards hung on for the 40-34 win.
Though he admitted fatigue played a big role for both teams, Kris Saylor pointed to several missed opportunities right next to the basket as a big reason why his team came up short.
“I think (fatigue) was a big thing,” Saylor said. “(Port Edwards) is a good shooting team. We have our days that we are. That second game in 24 hours takes a toll on the legs, so I figured it’d be a little ugly with the shooting. But it shouldn’t affect you on finishing, and that’s where we really hurt ourselves. But I thought (fatigue) definitely hurt them on their shooting tonight.”
Saylor was the only Necedah player to finish with double-digit scoring, putting up 14 points in the game. Reichel added nine points as well. For the Blackhawks, senior point guard Ian Gibbs scored a game-high 18 points, junior guard Addison Gibbs finished with nine points, senior shooting guard Peyton Kohlbeck added eight points and freshman guard Quinton Tranel chipped in five points.
Elsewhere during the Necedah Holiday Classic, Port Edwards defeated Wautoma (6-4) 53-43 Thursday, Dec. 28. However, the Hornets bounced back with a 63-56 win over Pittsville Friday, Dec. 29.
For Necedah, a four-game stretch of road contests lies ahead, starting with a non-conference matchup against the Alma Center Lincoln Hornets (1-8) Thursday, Jan. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
“I see us making big strides, but I still see areas of where we need to continue to work to improve,” Saylor said of his team’s progress so far this season. “We’re a good team. We’re a really good defensive team and we played better defense (against Port Edwards) than we did (against Pittsville). We’ll be okay. We’re in the right position moving forward.”