On Jan. 3, the Irish started off the New Year with a road trip to face conference rival Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Jaguars. The Jaguars are one of the top-rated teams in the state this year, having not lost yet this season. The Irish hoped to challenge the BBE team and pull off an upset. BBE is a strong and dangerous offensive team, and the Irish looked for a way to counter the aggressive offense of the Jaguars but couldn’t get it done, as they failed to put the ball through the hoop and had several turnovers. The Irish offense couldn’t seem to find rhythm and were rattled by the BBE defense. BBE took control with their high-scoring offense that gave the Irish defense a lot of trouble. The Irish had some moments of solid team defense in the first half, which allowed them to go on a few scoring runs, but they still trailed at halftime 36-28. In the second half, it was the same story for the Irish, as they allowed BBE to shoot 57 percent and failed to contain their best scorers.
Maple Lake was riding a four-game winning streak going into Friday night’s home game against the Kimball Cubs. Unlike Kimball, the Irish didn’t really have a great night shooting the ball. Throughout the game, Kimball was 7/18 from the three-point line. Maple Lake just couldn’t keep up with the hot shooting by the Cubs and lost the game 54-33. Maple Lake knew they would have to use their speed to neutralize the inside game of the Cubs from the start. In the early minutes of the game, neither team had difficulty scoring, with a score of 21-19 in favor of the Cubs, with six minutes to go in the first half. Unfortunately, after that the Irish went cold and didn’t score again in the first half and trailed by seven, 26-19, at the break. Forcing a quick turnover, the Irish were the first to score in the second half from a jump shot made by Rayne Coughlin to cut the lead to five.
Over the holidays, the girls’ basketball team didn’t get much of a Christmas break as they participated in the Upsala Holiday Tournament Dec. 27 and 28. The Irish’s first matchup was against Bertha-Hewitt. The game began with the Irish jumping out to an 11-4 lead. Bertha-Hewitt took advantage of the stagnant Irish man defense and tied the game 11-11 halfway through the first half. After the Irish switch to zone defense, the Bertha-Hewitt Bears scored only four more points in the half and Maple Lake took a 25-15 lead into the intermission. In the second half, the Irish were focused on execution and flustering the Bear offense into poor decisions. From that point on, the Irish maintained a commanding lead and downed the Bears by a 56-31 score. Maple Lake out-rebounded Bertha, 37-22. Maple Lake also shot a season high 44% on 25/56 from the floor, while holding the Bears to 23% on 11 of 47 shooting. More information and stats appears in this week's Messenger.
On Thursday, Dec. 20, the Irish had their first game of a three-day holiday tournament at St. John’s Prep. They faced off against the Milaca Wolves, hoping to start the tournament off with a win. Milaca came out very strong and confident, easily handling the pressure put on by the Irish. The Wolves had forced the Irish into an 11-point deficit at one point but the Irish would not give up. “Our boys showed again that they never give up and kept on fighting,” coach Tim Staloch said. The team shot the ball well in the second half and made a few clutch three-pointers. On defense the Irish managed to force Milaca into poor decisions, resulting in turnovers. The Irish took a 68-65 lead with only seconds left in the game, and trying to foul the Milaca player ended up resulting in three free throws for the Wolves. The first two went in, making the score 68-67.
On Saturday, December 22, the Moose took on their rival from across the Mississippi, the co-op team from Becker-Big Lake. It was a well-attended game, with only standing room available. The Moose were trying for a win after two close losses earlier in the week. To start off the game, the Moose scored at 6:35 with a goal from Robbie Stromme, assisted by Oliver Winsor and Mark Rieger-Borer. With the 1-0 lead, the Moose would be put on the penalty kill after a 5-minute major penalty. The Eagles were able to capitalize on this advantage, when they scored at four minutes into the penalty. With the period coming to an end, the Moose desired one more goal for the lead. Sam Johnson took the lead with two minutes left, having some assistance from Colton Jones and Reese Carstens. More information appears in this week's Messenger.
Conference opponent Pierz Pioneers entered the Maple Lake gymnasium Jan. 8 ready for a battle with the home team the Irish. The Irish were eager to get back on track and find a way to win a key conference game, but fell short 62-58. In the first half, the Irish had the challenge of stopping Pierz’s balanced offensive attack and matching the depth of the Pierz team. The Irish defense did a nice job of playing smart and controlled, but the Pioneers still found a way to shoot 52 percent in the first half. Offensively for Maple Lake in the first half, they were quietly successful. They only shot 36 percent, but they made just enough shots to keep them alive. With both teams going back and forth in the first half, the score was knotted up 25-25 at halftime. The second half started basically 0-0 again and neither team had an advantage going in. Both teams really came out with a focus and knocked down several shots.
Last week the Moose were able to add two wins to their record, including their coach’s 300 career win, Tuesday at home against the Prairie Center North Stars and on the road against the River Lakes Stars. Moose 4, Prairie Center 0 The Moose were able to stop the North Stars' offense with a strong defensive and offensive effort. During the first period the Moose were able to score twice. At just over a minute into the first, Reese Carstens sent a centering pass from behind the net up to Colton Jones. Jones put the puck in the net for the 1-0 lead. Some great puck work and passing led to a score of 2-0. The goal came from Spencer Nelson, who scored glove-side with four minutes left in the first after a pass from Neal Wagner and Mitch Gifford. In the second period, the Moose doubled their lead. Just 20 seconds after a North Stars' slashing penalty, Nelson got a pass from Tyler Mros he then put into the net, top-shelf.
The Irish gymnastics team took on Becker on Tuesday, Jan. 8. The girls finished with a season high score of 126.775, behind Becker, who scored a 138.550. The outcome of the meet may not have been what they wanted, but the coaches were proud. “We definitely had our best meet of the year, on both varsity and JV. It was great to see the girls fight through their fear and attempt skills they had not competed in a meet before,” assistant coach Paul Fouquette said. The girls took on the vault. Jordan Sifferle scored a 9.150, Courtney Pribyl scored an 8.550, Marisa Henrikson scored an 8.200, Heather Schlueter scored an 8.000, and Delaney Sifferle scored an 8.350. The event total was 34.250. More information and stats appear in this week's Messenger.
Annandale Advocate The Annandale-Maple Lake Lightning ended a solid week with four wins in six meets. The Lightning defeated Litchfield Thursday, Jan. 10, and lost to Dassel-Cokato at a double dual meet at Maple Lake High School. On Saturday, Jan. 12, the team defeated teams from Hopkins, No. 6 Class AA ranked Monticello and Willmar at the Monticello Invitational. But the Lightning lost 45-24 in their fourth match of the day to Shakopee, ranked No. 6 in state Class AAA. More information and stats appear in this week's Messenger.
Coming off a few wins, the Irish boys’ basketball team looked to carry their momentum into two matchups against conference opponents Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Rockford. In order to improve their conference standing, the Irish needed to play tough and win some of these conference battles, but fell short in both attempts. Tuesday, Jan. 22, Maple Lake took on the Lakers of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted at the Lakers’ home court. Maple Lake versus Howard Lake is always a big time rivalry, and always provides an exciting display of basketball. Howard Lake entered the game at 9-4 and is a very impressive team, which showed in the first half as HLWW outshot the Irish 52 percent to 40 percent. HLWW also forced the Irish into a lot of bad decisions on offense and the Irish struggled to take care of the ball. Defensively, the Irish had a tough time guarding the many offensive threats from HLWW.