After trailing for much of the first half — including by 10 at the intermission — the No. 2 (Class 2A) Gaels (7-0 overall, 6-0 in the North Central Conference) roared back to defeat Algona (4-3, 3-3), 55-46, behind a swarming defense and precise offensive execution.
‘‘This was the kind of game we needed,’’ said SEHS head coach Adolph Kochendorfer. ‘‘The kids know they can’t just show up and expect to win, and we were due for a close one.
‘‘That’s what makes this conference so tough — you just never know.’’
The Bulldogs jumped out to an 8-4 lead with just over three minutes to play in the opening quarter on a layup by Ryan Brandt and pushed their advantage to 11-5 at the end of the first period after a John Gifford bucket with 2:03 left.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs continued their impressive play, reeling off eight straight points, including back-to-back hoops by Nick Kajewski.
Trailing 19-5, the Gaels battled back to outscore the Bulldogs 8-4 in the final 5:30 and cut the deficit to 23-13 heading into the locker room.
John Engler paced St. Edmond with six first half points, while Brandt tallied 11 to lead the Bulldogs.
Behind a pair of Bryan Huss three-pointers and four Engler free throws, St. Edmond began the second half on a 10-0 run to even the score at 23-23 with five minutes remaining.
A bucket by Brandt quickly regained the lead for the Bulldogs, but Andy Nagel answered with a hoop of his own to tie the contest once again.
Both teams would score six points over the final 3:30 and the game was deadlocked at 31-31 entering the final frame.
Algona registered the first five points of the fourth on a Dustin Leeper bucket and Michael Becker triple, but the advantage wouldn’t last for long.
Relying on a new-found defensive intensity, St. Edmond would go on another 10-0 burst, including five consecutive points from senior point guard Jay Bunte.
A three-pointer by Kajewski at the 4:09 mark momentarily stemmed the tide, but the green and white closed out the contest on a 14-5 spurt to seal the win.
‘‘Nagel and Engler were a load inside in the second half and that was the difference,’’ said AHS head coach Noel McLaughlin. ‘‘We withstood their initial run early in the third quarter, but they made some big shots down the stretch.
‘‘Overall, I thought our kids worked hard and I’m proud of our effort.’’
Engler and Taylor Kraayenbrink scored 15 points each to anchor the Gaels, while Nagel — a North Dakota State recruit — added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Bunte chipped in five points, five rebounds and seven assists.
Brandt and Kajewski led the Bulldogs with 15 points a piece.
‘‘We wanted to get Andy some more touches in the second half and get him the ball where he could score, because that really opens things up for our shooters,’’ Kochendorfer said. ‘‘I thought we also played with much more defensive intensity in the second half, and that was the difference.’’
The Gael JV squad (4-2) also earned a 47-41 victory. Zach Baldwin led the Gaels with 12 points. Collin Fett scored 13 points for the Bulldogs.
Next action for the Gaels is Friday when they host Clarion-Goldfield. Tip is set for 7:45 p.m.
Contact Josh Meyer at (515) 573-2141, or by e-mail at s'>email@example.com'>firstname.lastname@example.org
—Messenger photo by Dana Recker
St. Edmond’s John Engler puts up a shot while Algona’s Micheal Becker attempts to block him in Tuesday night's game.
St. Edmond 55, Algona 46
St. Edmond — Jay Bunte 2-5 0-0 5, Bryan Huss 2-11 0-0 6, Joey Flattery 0-6 0-0 0, John Engler 4-11 7-11 15, Andy Nagel 4-8 6-11 14, Taylor Kraayenbrink 4-8 4-4 15. Totals: 16-49 17-26 55.
Algona — Dustin Leeper 1-4 0-0 2, John Gifford 4-7 0-0 9, Ryan Brandt 7-13 1-1 15, Nick Kajewski 6-6 2-2 15, Andy Behnkendorf 1-7 0-0 2, Alex Lenz 0-1 0-0 0, Michael Becker 1-3 0-0 3. Totals: 20-41 3-3 46.
Quarter scores: Algona led 11-5, 23-13, tied 31-31. Three-point goals: St. Edmond 6-20 (Bunte 1-3, Huss 2-10, Flattery 0-1, Kraayenbrink 3-6. Algona 3-10 ( Leeper 0-1, Gifford 1-2, Kajewski 1-1, Behnkendorf 0-3, Lenz 0-1, Becker 1-2. Total rebounds: St. Edmond 32, Algona 24. Turnovers: St. Edmond 9, Algona 19. Total fouls: St. Edmond 8, Algona 19. Fouled out: Gifford.