After a long layoff since last taking the court, the Maple Grove boys basketball team kicked off their 2022 slate of games with a road conference game against Coon Rapids (6-2) Jan. 7. Even though the Cardinals held a 17-point lead in the second half, the Crimson came storming back to force overtime and eventually collect a three-point win 79-76.
Coming out of the gates, the Cardinals jumped out to an early 21-9 lead midway through the first half, but the Crimson ended the opening 18 minutes strong by cutting the deficit to just one and eventually trailed Coon Rapids 37-32 at the break. The Cardinals began the second half similar to how they started the game, with lots of energy and momentum, which propelled them to a 17-point lead. In timeouts, head coach Nick Schroeder told his team to take it one possession at a time.
“We kept emphasizing that our offense was clicking well, but we weren’t getting stops defensively,” Schroeder said. “We focused on limiting possessions, not giving up second-chance scoring opportunities, and chipping away at the lead. Our guys really stepped up late in the second half and overtime.”
Slowly but surely, the Cardinal lead started to dwindle and with less than five minutes left, Coon Rapids only held an eight-point lead. Then, after Maple Grove cut it to three with just under two minutes remaining, senior guard Matthew Hosmann, who scored a game-high 20 points, drained one of his five made three-pointers of the evening to tie the score at 68.
“Matt is an outstanding shooter. We trust him to take and make those shots,” Schroeder said. “He missed a few early, but once he gets hot he can fill it up and the guys started feeding him the ball. He was huge in the comeback.”
After a late turnover from the Cardinals when they held a two-point lead, Crimson senior guard Derrick Jameson made two clutch free throws to send the game to overtime tied at 70. Jameson scored 19 points, both from the free-throw line and also from attacking the rim.
“Derrick is so aggressive to the basket,” Schroeder said. “He puts pressure on the defense with his athleticism at the basket. He’s a gamer and a guy we have confidence in down the stretch.”
Throughout the past few weeks, Maple Grove, like the rest of the world, has been battling positive cases of COVID-19 within its program. Because of protocols set by the Minnesota Department of Health, any player with a positive case is out for a minimum of 10 days.
For basketball players, that means no contact with the team, and a revolving door of players needed to fill roles. Rather than having a bulk of players out at the same time, the Crimson have been dealing with staggering positive cases, disrupting the normal playing rotation.
“One guy comes back and another guy leaves. It’s been frustrating but it’s the world we live in right now,” Schroeder said.
Because of that, two players on the junior varsity team practiced with the varsity team the past week. “Those guys have to be ready at all times,” Schroeder said. One of those guys was sophomore guard Henry Stang.
With 14 seconds left in the overtime session, Stang, who had only played in two games before this one, drilled an elbow jump shot for two of his career-high 10 points to give the Crimson a one-point lead. After a defensive stop, Jameson nailed two free throws and Maple Grove finished their dramatic comeback, beating the Cardinals 79-76 and improving to 3-5 on the season.
Schroeder said that, whether due to COVID-19 or injuries, they have had a full, healthy roster for one or two games this season. Still, the goal remains the same for Maple Grove: get to the spot where they are playing their best ball in March.
The Maple Grove boys will host Anoka (3-5) Jan. 13. They will then travel to face Sauk Rapids-Rice (4-5) Jan. 14.