LA CRESCENT, Minn. — The La Crescent-Hokah High School boys basketball team has made a renewed commitment to the 2-2-1 full-court press defense, and more often than not, it’s paying dividends for the Lancers.
After falling behind briefly in the first half, La Crescent-Hokah put together a 22-3 run to close the first half thanks in large part to that defense, and coasted past Wabasha-Kellogg in the second half, earning a 65-38 win over the Falcons in a Three Rivers Conference game on Thursday night at the Mac Dahl Gymnasium.
The Lancers (8-2) trailed 16-15 at the 6-minute mark of the first half, but scored the next 10 in a row to help take a commanding 38-19 lead into halftime.
“It’s our first year really doing it where we’re committed to doing it the full game,” La Crescent-Hokah coach Ryan Thibodeau said of the 2-2-1 press. “Certainly there are matchups that we have where it doesn’t quite work, but we feel that if we can do it the whole game, it really feeds into our benefit late in the game.”
Sophomore Carter Todd scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, using his 6-foot-4 frame to help trap and create easy baskets after turnovers.
“It’s different than we’ve ever done before, because usually we have bigger guys, but this year, we’re a little undersized so we want to get up and play,” Todd said of the pressure. “It helps us put them into a tempo and play how we want to play in the full court.”
Thibodeau said that finding the balance between pushing the ball on offense and settling into its half-court offense has been a challenge for La Crescent-Hokah, but one that he said that the Lancers are improving at here midway through the season.
“For us, I want to be as aggressive as we can be in transition, but when they get things set, we need to take a step back and get the ball moved and we need to try to get the ball inside,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes, our guys sometimes don’t know where that line is.”
When the Lancers are able to get the ball into the lane and out to a shooter, they usually find success, hitting seven 3-pointers against the Falcons (1-7). Junior Cam Manske hit three 3-pointers for his nine points, with four players hitting one each.
“This year, we’ve really figured out that we have some really good shooters, but we know we want to get at least one paint touch before we throw up a three,” Todd said. “That’s really kind of helped us — get a paint touch, get a swing, and that really helps us in our offense.”
Freshman Parker McQuin had 14 points for La Crescent-Hokah, which had 11 players score. That depth, according to Thibodeau, is what allows the Lancers to play the style they want.
“Other teams get tired, don’t want to deal with it,” Thibodeau said. “We just feel like if we can sustain it over time — yes, we’ll give up some good looks, but eventually it wears out the opposition. We’ve got enough depth where we can play 10 guys, and it’s been working.”
La Crescent-Hokah will get a full week before facing a talented Byron (7-1) on the road next Thursday. Todd said that the Lancers will spend plenty of time focusing on limiting turnovers before facing a stretch of games that includes not only the Bears, but also third-ranked Caledonia.
“We really want to be able to maximize our possessions, especially against Caledonia, Byron, and those teams,” Todd said. “If we keep giving them possessions, the game will get away from us.”
Thibodeau said that some self-scouting will be important with a rare mid-season week off.
“We’re not as much worried with what our opponents are doing as in years past,” Thibodeau said. “We’re trying to improve our style of play. It’s going to be about watching our most recent games and improving upon what we’re doing.”