Games don’t get much closer than that between Upsala and Pierz, Tuesday.
The non-conference, cross-county rivals matched one another blow for blow all night. The Cardinals led by just one at halftime, and it was more of the same in the second half. Upsala managed to get out of Pierz with a thrilling, 72-70 victory.
“We started off slow,” said Cardinals coach Joey Fuchs. “After not having a game in a week, we had to knock the rust off a bit. It was a very physical game and I was happy to see us not back down from that challenge.”
Despite the sluggish start, Jack Primus drilled a pair of 3-pointers and Levi Lampert poured in 12 points to help Upsala to a 37-36 halftime lead
The Pioneers weren’t about to let them run away with it. Noah Oberfeld drilled four 3-pointers in the first half to finish the opening 18 minutes with 16 points. Zach Jones was also instrumental in keeping the score close, with 13 points in the first half.
A tough Pierz defensive attack wasn’t enough to slow the Cardinals in the second half, thanks in large part to a monster effort by Lampert. He drained in five shots from downtown to add 20 points to his total after halftime. Noah Boeckermann and Micah Ripplinger added 3-pointers of their own to help Upsala keep the Pioneers at bay.
Still, the home team didn’t let up easily. Oberfeld connected from beyond the arc three more times after the break, and Ben Virnig scored nine of his 14 points in the second half.
“We were able to handle their pressure defense pretty well, as we only committed 13 turnovers,” Fuchs said. “It was a good team win against a tough AA opponent.”
Lampert finished the night with 32 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Boeckermann racked up a double-double with 12 points, 11 boards and three steals, with Ripplinger adding eight points.
Oberfeld led the Pioneers’ effort with 25 points. Jones checked in with 18, while Virnig finished with 14.
Upsala (5-5 overall, 2-0 conference) travels to Long Prairie-Grey Eagle for a Prairie Conference contest, Thursday. The Cards will be back on the floor at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at Osakis.
It was the second straight narrow defeat for Pierz.
The Pioneers knew they had their hands full, Jan. 7, against Class AA No. 7 ranked Albany. They held their own, keeping within striking distance throughout the contest. However, the Huskies bent but never did break, and Pierz left Albany with a 62-56 Granite Ridge Conference loss.
The Pioneers had a strong night in the shooting department, sinking 16-of-35 (45%) from the floor. That included going 9-for-19 from 3-point range.
Oberfeld led the Pierz offense by drilling four treys on his way to 17 points. Jones wasn’t far behind. He shot 3-for-7 from distance to finish with 13 points, which matched Virnig’s point total.
Pierz (4-7 overall, 0-2 conference) hosts Little Falls, Friday, and will be in Zimmerman for a 7 p.m. tipoff, Tuesday.