Red Wing has had seven days since their last game — the longest stretch between games so far this season. In the most recent contest the Wingers notched their first win, a 72-43 drubbing of Albert Lea. A week later and seemingly far removed from that outcome, Red Wing fell to Mankato East 71-52.
The loss on Tuesday night was the second half of the regular season matchups between the two teams and the Cougars finished on top both times. Despite what the score would indicate, the outcome wasn’t always a certainty. One possession separated the two teams on eight occasions.
To start the game however, Mankato East raced out to an early 7-2 lead. Considering that the game had zero lead changes, that quick start proved to have increased significance. Red Wing trimmed the Cougars’ lead down to one point after two Maddox Hanson 3-pointers put the score at 12-11 six minutes into the first half.
The two teams traded baskets for the next five minutes, but Mankato East closed out the half on a 16-8 run to give them a 36-26 lead at halftime. During the opening 18 minutes, Red Wing made five 3-pointers compared to Mankato East’s four, but Denval Atkinson was held to a season-low one point. After ripping through the paint against Albert Lea one week ago, the Wingers were held to just six points in the paint in the first half on Tuesday.
Once the second half began though, Red Wing came out looking like a new team wearing the purple jerseys. The Wingers scored six consecutive points out of the break, going on a 12-6 run in the first five minutes of the second half. Red Wing was suddenly getting passes to teammates cutting toward the basket and getting second-chance opportunities after offensive rebounds.
Red Wing had the game within reach as they cut the deficit down to 47-46 with 8:39 to play, but the final eight minutes went the complete opposite as the first eight. To open the half Red Wing shot lights out, converting on the majority of their opportunities and scoring 20 points. In the final eight minutes Red Wing couldn’t get anything to fall and scored just six points.
Mankato East on the other hand, took advantage of the sudden cold shooting of the Wingers and went on a 24-6 run to close out the game.
The loss proved that although the Wingers are undoubtedly an improved squad this year, there is still a need for continued development and maturation on a team with no seniors.
Tied for the team lead in points were Hanson and Andrew Ball with 11. Cooper Chandler and Reese Tripp had eight points apiece, while Atkinson scored seven, Deso Buck (5) and Maurice Williams-Rosebear (2).
Red Wing, 1-8, returns to action Friday in Northfield.