CULVER — LaCrosse’s Tigers were able to hang around for 16 minutes but Argos doubled down on the defense in the third quarter and took a commanding 61-40 opening night win at the Culver sectional.
“They executed well on offense,” said Dragon head coach Gordon Mosson. “We didn’t play really well on defense, the effort just wasn’t there consistently.”
“You have to give them credit,” he said. “(Ben) Garwood is a good player and the point guard (Kyle) Gorski and I think (Carter Burkholder) must have had a career night, we sure didn’t guard him very well.”
Both Garwood (14 pts.) and Burkholder (13 pts.) ended the night in double figures scoring but Garwood had just five and Burkholder six in the second half as the Dragons turned up the heat.
There were moments of concern in the first half though, one, in particular, a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer that pulled the Tigers within seven at 28-21.
“People don’t understand how much you work on things and how much you stress them to your team throughout the year,” said Mosson. “After we scored we just relaxed and didn’t get matched up, didn’t keep the ball in front of us at all. It was like the half was over.”
“Did it affect the game tonight? It put them back within seven so you don’t know,” he said. “It can affect you down the stretch and I don’t like seeing us make mental mistakes.”
Any thought of the shot turning the momentum disappeared out of the locker room as Argos forced five LaCrosse turnovers and allowed just six shots from the floor in the third holding the Tigers to just seven points in the quarter.
Meanwhile, Dylan Kindig and Jake Stults stepped up with 11 points and five rebounds between them to spur Argos as they found a way to navigate the LaCrosse full-court pressure.
“We were not making them play defense in the full court,” said Mosson. “We were just passive in the back court. We stressed to (our players) to make them guard us. Use the dribble to make them guard us. We thought we could reverse the ball and break the press that way whether it be in the middle or down the sideline.”
“We got a couple steals there and got in transition.,” he said. “Maybe the kids relaxed a little bit and just played. I think it was a combination of things but one of the main things was making them play defense in the backcourt.”
Argos got 16 from Michael Richard to lead three players in double figures for the Dragons. J.J. Morris had 13 and Kindig 12. Caden Nifong had five rebounds and Stults and Teddy Redinger had four assists each.
Argos (17-5) has a Friday “Bell Game” rematch with host Culver (7-15), the Dragons taking the traveling trophy earlier in February with a 10 point win at Argos.
•ARGOS 61, LACROSSE 40
Argos 17 28 48 61
LaCrosse 9 21 28 40
Argos (61) — M. Richard 6 2-4 16, Morris 5 2-2 13, Stults 2 0-0 5, Redinger 1 0-2 2, S. Richard 1 1-1 3, Mills 1 0-0 3, Kindig 6 0-0 12. Totals 25 6-11 61.
LaCrosse (40) — Gorski 2 0-0 4, Burkholder 4 6-7 15, McArdle 1 0-0 3, Welkie 0 2-2 2, Grieger 1 0-0 2, Garwood 5 2-3 14. Totals 13 10-12 40.