The Cardinal boys’ and girls’ basketball teams continued a hot 2020 as they swept a home doubleheader against the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau Red Hawks on Saturday. The girls’ blew out the Red Hawks in the first game of the day 63-41 and then the boys held on to win 71-59.
The two teams have combined to go 18-3 since the calendar turned. The girls are 9-2 in 2020 and have won seven straight after two consecutive losses to Hastings and River Falls, while the boys are 9-1 with their only loss in that span also River Falls.
Boys turn the corner thanks to defense
The Prescott boys followed up their revenge against the New Richmond Tigers with a blowout win at home against Osceola on Friday and then held on against G-E-T on Saturday. Putting aside a loss at River Falls on Jan. 31, the Cardinals have been much improved since a rough stretch earlier in the season where they lost three of four games from Dec. 17-28.
“I just think that the light bulb kind of has gone off, we needed to play a different style of basketball and what we’ve been talking about and preaching the last three months I think they’re finally buying in,” said head coach Nick Johnson after the win over G-E-T. “We can be a very good man-to-man defensive team. We can play to a different level, and I think we’re getting there, I still don’t think we’re there-there. Obviously we want to be there toward the end of the season, but we’re definitely a different team. It’s been a lot of positives the last two weeks and we’re very proud of the adjustments they’ve made.”
“I would say that in the last couple weeks, in practice we’ve focused on our defense and stepped up our effort overall and it’s led to some good chances for us, which is why we’re on this run right now,” said senior Parker Nielsen.
Parker Nielsen drives and finishes. pic.twitter.com/AJv0HFl81K— Alec Hamilton (@alechamsports) February 9, 2020
Prescott put that defense on display in their stifling win over Osceola and it was present at times against G-E-T as well. Whereas past Cardinal teams have been known for their 1-3-1 zone, this team has found its groove with a switching, man-to-man style.
Nielsen said that man-to-man defense has become their go-to and Johnson said they have the personnel that can really execute it.
“Well we have three guys for sure who start that can all switch, Walker (Lenz), Parker and Mason (Holte) for sure, even JD (Jacob Doffing) can play perimeter and they can all play big too,” Johnson said. “So it gives us that option when we get caught up in ball-screens, we can switch screens and they’re allowed to do that but we just have to communicate and we’ve been doing a good job at that. Then we show 1-3-1 at times out of dead balls and breaks and stuff like that. I think defensively has been the turn, if we’ve kind of turned the corner it’s because of our defense.”
Against G-E-T, Prescott built a 12-point lead by halftime but allowed the Red Hawks back in to start the second half. However, they were able to buckle-down over the last several minutes for the victory. Nielsen led all scorers with 29 points, six assists and three steals. Doffing added 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Jordan Malmlov had 11 points and Walker Lenz contributed 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Jordan Malmlov knocks down the corner 3. pic.twitter.com/PtgoIDDAL1— Alec Hamilton (@alechamsports) February 9, 2020
Mason Holte buries the pretty hook shot. pic.twitter.com/oprOI6meVD— Alec Hamilton (@alechamsports) February 9, 2020
Prescott hosts Somerset on Thursday and after that has just three games left in February.
Girls continue to dominate, gain state recognition
The Cardinal girls started last week ranked No. 10 in the state in Division 3 after a 57-43 win against Durand. They followed that up with an 81-60 drubbing of Somerset on the road where Isabella Lenz dropped 51 points, the fifth-most scored by a girls’ basketball player in Wisconsin this season and most by anyone not named Shatima McFarland of Milwaukee Pulaski. Against G-E-T, they pulled away in the second half as they upped the pressure and used some tremendous ball-movement to tear apart the Red Hawks’ defense.
After the game, Lenz said that their recent winning-streak is a simple response to those two losses earlier in January.
“I honestly think it was just not wanting to lose again, I mean nobody likes losing,” she said.
As dominant as the Cardinals were to start the season, when they won their first eight games, their most recent stretch is perhaps even more impressive with wins over some strong teams like New Richmond and Durand.
“We started off the season and we obviously had to get used to each other, a whole different lineup than last season and I think we’ve really come together and our chemistry is better right now,” Lenz said about the most recent stretch.
Prescott led the entire way against G-E-T, but was not able to pull away until the second half. They led 29-20 at halftime after struggling to score the last few minutes of the first half without Lenz on the floor. However, they put the clamps on the Red Hawks defensively in the second half and started to pull away as numerous Cardinals got in on the scoring action.
Lenz led all scorers with 25 points, 17 of which came in the first half and most of those points came at the rim. In the second half she focused on being a distributor and ended up with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals as well.
Isabella Lenz drives and finishes. pic.twitter.com/4bE3VuIq0k— Alec Hamilton (@alechamsports) February 10, 2020
Sydney Matzek had 14 points, including two made 3-pointers along the way to 10 second-half points. She added four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Tori Benck and Nicole Dalman both contributed six points apiece.
Sydney Matzek hits a 3 for the Cardinals. pic.twitter.com/TJozCfoI9j— Alec Hamilton (@alechamsports) February 8, 2020
Prescott hosts undefeated St. Croix Falls on Monday in another big test for the Cardinals, goes to Baldwin-Woodville on Tuesday and then hosts Ellsworth on Friday. They finish up the regular season the following week with games against Osceola and New Richmond.