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Chris Murphy, Published December 07 2012

Moorhead boys hoops falter down the stretch against Stillwater

MOORHEAD – Momentum can swing with the blink of an eye in the game of basketball. And in the final 92 seconds of Friday’s boys matchup between Class 4A’s No. 10-ranked Moorhead and Stillwater, the Spuds blinked and their eyes never opened, as the Ponies took home a

66-57 win over Moorhead.

A putback by Aaron Lien cut the Stillwater lead to

59-57 with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining. Lien stole the ball on the inbounds pass and was fouled, but missed the front end of the one-and-one. Lien stole the ball again on the ensuing possession and sunk the potential tying layup, but was called for an offensive foul with a minute remaining. From there, the Ponies closed the game on a 7-0 run to seal it.

“A few calls didn’t go our way, and we didn’t execute down the stretch,” said Lien, who finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. “They got up on us, and that’s the ballgame. I think we have to work on end-of-the-game situations. We haven’t really prepared for that. The effort was there, but just a few calls didn’t go our way and a few plays didn’t go our way.”

It took Moorhead (1-1) nearly 24 minutes to get its first lead on a Brett Lawrence jumper with 6:22 left in the game, but Stillwater (1-0) never went away, allowing the Spuds two one-point leads the rest of the way and closing the game on an 18-7 run.

“We got some young guys,” Moorhead coach Corey Zimmerman said. “We start two underclassmen and we have two other underclassmen come off the bench for us. At this point in the season, it’s early. If we’re playing like this come January and February, then we’re doing something wrong. To expect those guys to be ready right now would be foolish of me.”

The game began with Stillwater’s Matt Anderson hitting two shots and Nick Ogren burying a 3-pointer to give the Ponies a 7-0 lead. A free throw from Andrew Duxbury gave the Ponies a 29-19 lead later in the half, but Austin Nelson completed a 3-point play and Preston Kraiter hit a free throw for Moorhead to cut the lead to 29-23 at the half.

“We got off to a slow start, and that’s kind of what set us back, but it was good to see our guys keep fighting and battle back,” Lien said. “I wasn’t disappointed in our effort, but I thought we just didn’t execute down the stretch. We’re still growing and trying to get that chemistry down. I think that we’re going to come back tomorrow ready to go.”

Stillwater took a 41-34 lead on an Andrew Duxbury free throw, but Moorhead answered with a 14-7 run behind six points from Lien to tie things at 48-48. The score would go back and forth until Duxbury hit a free throw to give the Ponies a 56-55 lead with just less than three minutes remaining. The Ponies stole the ensuing inbounds pass and Chad Schlosser completed a 3-point play to give the Ponies a 59-55 lead with 2:32 left. The Ponies never trailed from there. It was the Spuds’ 20th and final turnover of the night.

“They need to grow from this,” Zimmerman said. “They need to improve from it and be ready when the time comes. We were in it. Down the stretch we need to make some plays. The guys didn’t quit though, and that’s huge. If you have guys quitting, then it’s like a roller coaster all season.”

M (1-1): Lien 10-2-3 24, Dorow 1-0-0 2, Lawrence 6-0-0 12, Nelson 5-2-2 13, Kraiter 0-1-2 1, Anderson 2-1-2 5.

S (1-0): Ogren 4-0-2 11, Duxbury 3-6-8 12, Anderson 3-4-4 10, Quinn 2-1-2 5, Lennox 5-0-0 13, Schlosser 2-3-3 7, Lagus 3-1-2 8.

Half: S 29, M 23. 3-point goals: Lien 2, Nelson 1, Ogren 3, Lennox 3, Lagus 1. Total fouls: M 17, S 11. Rebounds: M 33 (Lien 12, Nelson 7, Lawrence 6), S 25 (Anderson 7). Turnovers: M 20, S 13.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548