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Stingy defense results in road wins for Creek Valley versus Minatare

MINATARE, Neb. - For their first outing in the year 2018, the Creek Valley Storm hit the road for a meeting against a Minuteman Activities Conference (MAC), and Class D2 District 12 opponent, the Minatare Indians. After having their holiday tournament plans cancelled due to weather, Saturday would be the first game for Creek Valley in three weeks. For Minatare, they had the added benefit of having hosted Hemingford Friday night despite suffering a pair of losses against the Bobcats.  

The first game of the afternoon pitted the Lady Storm (2-4, 1-1 D2-12) against the the Lady Indians (1-5, 1-0 D2-12). Creek Valley had gained some momentum heading into the holiday break with back-to-back wins over Banner County and Sedgwick County (CO), but second year head coach Missy Koenen was curious to see if that would carry over to the new year. For Minatare and third year head coach Schyler Ferguson, the focus would be on capitalizing on some of the elements they did well in their lone win this season, 55-54 in overtime against Banner County back in early December such as limiting turnovers and finding good shots offensively.

In the opening stages of the game, it was clear that Creek Valley had an advantage on the glass as the Lady Storm came away with several second, third and even fourth chance opportunities off of offensive rebounds. After working on a new pressure defense in the week of practice leading up to the game, they also had success forcing several Lady Indian turnovers, 10 in the first quarter, unofficially. The suffocating defense and multiple offensive looks allowed the visitors in green to hold a 10-3 lead at the end of one.

The second quarter played out much like the first with Minatare unable to find any offensive rhythm or open shots as they struggled to only put up another three points on the board prior to half. Creek Valley senior Payje Misegadis knocked down a three-pointer and the Lady Storm added six more points from the foul line on their way to holding a 21-6 halftime lead. On top of the execution offensively for Creek Valley, they also were able to limit their own turnovers in the opening half as they went to the locker room having only given the ball away eight times, unofficially.

The story line stayed the same in the second half of play as the Lady Storm continued to force turnovers and dominate the offensive and defensive rebounding battle. The Lady Indians couldn’t seem to find an answer to the ferocious Creek Valley defense and the Lady Storm cruised to a 39-13 victory, their eighth straight over Minatare, behind 29 unofficial forced turnovers and a 45-30 rebounding margin.

The Lady Indians were led by junior Zulema Garfio as she finished with five points, while team leading scorer junior Alexandra Garcia managed only two. Misegadis paced all players in the game with 14 points while also almost totaling a triple-double with 12 rebounds and eight steals, unofficially, on her way to being named player of the game. Freshman forward Mariah Koenen chipped in nine points of her own while also pulling in seven boards.

The formula for a victory would be the same in the second game of the afternoon as the boys took to the hardwood. Unlike the girls, however, Creek Valley (3-2, 1-1 D2-12) didn’t go into the holiday season with momentum as they had dropped their last two games to Bayard and Sedgwick County (CO) prior to the three week layoff. Despite that, after a great week of practice, 16th year head coach Roger Behrends entered Saturday’s meeting with optimism and wanted to see the good practice habits carry over into the game.

After a tough 69-18 home loss Friday night against Hemingford, sixth year Minatare head coach Kyle Cotton and his squad were happy for the opportunity to shake off the loss by taking the court again in front of their home crowd. The Indians had struggled against the Bobcats in the same areas as the girls team, turnovers and rebounds, and that again would be the focus Saturday against an athletic and lengthy Storm unit.

That height advantage showed up early on for Creek Valley as both junior Sam Grabowski and senior Michael Smith combined for 15 points in the opening quarter. Even with the Storm’s success in the post, Minatare went on an 8-0 run ranging from the end of the first and into the beginning of the second quarter to cut the Creek Valley lead to one, 17-16. Leading scorer, sophomore Kaleb Gonzalez, started to find his stroke knocking down a few jumpers during the stretch as he totaled eight points in the second.  

The Storm were finally able to end the run from the Indians thanks to a three-pointer from junior Tanner Crass two minutes into the quarter. He went on to add five more, while Smith totaled another four points on his way to 12 in the first half. Creek Valley answered the Minatare run with a 10-0 run of their own heading into halftime, giving themselves a 35-20 lead.

Both teams had limited the turnovers in the first half with the Storm holding the slightest of margins, 8-10, in the turnover battle. The discrepancy in the rebounding statistics was much more in the favor of the visitors as the Creek Valley had grabbed 17 boards in the first half, unofficially, which resulted in several offensive putbacks, while the Indians only managed six total.

Out of the locker room, the Storm took a page out of the girls playbook as they turned up the defensive pressure. With the increase in on-ball pressure, Minatare had a tough time adjusting turning the leather over 11 times in the third quarter alone as Creek Valley turned the loose balls into points on the other end and pushed their lead to 50-31 heading into the final eight minutes.

Ten more turnovers in the fourth quarter coupled with continued offensive execution allowed the Storm to increase the lead into the high twenties before ultimately settling in with a 29-point win, 64-35. By the time the final buzzer rang, the Indians had turned the ball over, unofficially, 31 times and were outrebounded 35-17.

Smith finished with a game-high 26 points and seven rebounds as he garnered player of the game recognition. Both Grabowski and Crass also got into double digits scoring with 16 and 10, respectively. While not having the scoring totals of the other three, senior guard Michael Rahe was instrumental in causing several second half Minatare turnovers as he snatched eight unofficial steals to go along with four points. Gonzalez lead the Indians with 15 points and five steals.

Both schools will be on the road for their next outing as the Minatare will head to Oshkosh to take on the Garden County Eagles Tuesday. Creek Valley will also remain away from home for their next game as they’ll also be making a Tuesday night road trip heading South of the Nebraska-Colorado border to play Haxtun (CO).

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