Coming off of a long break before heading to St. Cloud to take on the 2021 Crusader Christmas Boys’ Basketball Classic, Milaca boys basketball Head Coach, Kaleb Anderson was worried about what the long layoff would do to the squad.
“My major concern coming into the tournament was that we had a huge break. I was concerned about if we would be able to wake up and play at the high level we needed to,” said Anderson.
Through the first pair of games, the Wolves were not able to consistently reach the level they needed finding themselves trailing by double-digit deficits before being forced to mount larger comebacks to give themselves a chance to win.
The inconsistent energy resulted Milaca splitting a pair, beating Litchfield, 60-59 on Dec. 28, before falling to Spectrum the next day by a 70-67 score to send themselves to the third place game to take on Granite Ridge foe, Cathedral for third place.
Bouncing back from the two mixed-bag performances, the Wolves were able to play up to their standards to take the final game by a 72-56 outcome to wrap up third place in the holiday tournament.
“It was a nice way to finish the tournament,” said Anderson on picking up the win over the Crusaders.
Before setting up the bronze medal showing for the Wolves, it looked like Milaca might get knocked to the consolation bracket in their first game as the Litchfield Dragons were able to jump out to a 17-point halftime lead over their opponent as Milaca did not get off to a good start.
The second half saw a completely different team compared to the squad that the Wolves trotted out, as Milaca was able to battle back, take the lead and hold on to the single-point victory. “We weren’t able to play at a high level initially but the energy level was so different in the second half,” said Anderson on the comeback.
Junior guard Peyton Hunt led the way for Milaca’s comeback with 20 points for the contest while junior forward Trace Hasz 18 points and eight rebounds to aid Hunt.
Up next for the Wolves was a rematch against a Spectrum team that Milaca had beaten 76-66 back on Dec. 7.
Spectrum 70, Milaca 67
Back again for their second showing in the Crusader Classic, the Wolves again found themselves trailing by a large margin early into the contest against the Sting.
But like the first contest, Milaca quickly rallied on the back on point guard, Lewis Wolbert, who keyed a 22-8 run to get the Wolves within striking distance at 37-32 at the break with his 16 first half points.
Milaca was able to briefly take the lead in the second half but the energy expended to rally proved to be too much as Spectrum was able to make enough plays down the stretch to pull out the victory.
Wolbert finished 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in the losing effort, nearly completing the triple-double for Milaca in what would have been only the second in school history.
“It was nice to see that we were able to turn it around mid-game but it was a little too late,” said Anderson.
Wrapping up the tournament, the Wolves took on Cathedral.
Wolves 72, Crusaders 56
In contrast to the first two games, Milaca was able to come out with the energy it needed to against the solid, Cathedral team, maintaining a nine-point lead into halftime.
That lead would only grow as the Wolves would coast to the 16-point victory.
Seeing the team roll to the victory after having to mount large comebacks the previous two nights was great to witness said Anderson, saying it was the best performance the Wolves have had so far this season. “We played a complete game, our first complete game, we just played good in every area,” said Anderson.
Hunt and Wolbert again played while and were joined by forward, Kyle Martin as the trio combined for 54 points in the win.
Wolbert’s strong play for the three games netted the junior a spot on the all-tournament team.
With the victory in hand, the Wolves were able to grab the third spot in tournament while improving to 5-2 so far on the season.
Now returning to action Milaca will now get a taste of conference play, starting on Jan. 4, with the Wolves traveling to Foley.