Junior power forward Jake Dale and junior guard Steven Nessler sparked a second-half surge Tuesday night that lifted Mankato West to a 66-57 Big Nine Conference boy’s basketball win over Albert Lea at the West gym.
Trailing 32-30 four minutes into the second half, the Scarlets (14-7 overall, 9-6 in Big Nine) erupted to score 15 of the game’s next 17 points to gain a 45-34 advantage on senior forward Braedan Myer’s three-point play with 9:53 remaining. Nessler nailed a top-of-the-key 3-pointer and two foul shots in the surge while Dale worked free inside for a pair of layups off Tyler Stoffel assists.
Dale, who finished with a team-best 20 points and nine rebounds, then dropped through a follow-up bucket and a banker off a nifty in-the-lane spin move before Nessler’s head-on triple put West in front 56-44 with 5:51 to go. After the Tigers (6-15, 3-12) trimmed the lead to 56-53 on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jake Thompson and Cody Scherff, Stoffel’s steal and driving hoop along with six made foul shots and Nessler’s free-throw line jumper sealed things.
“We started off slow but we got more energy going in the second half and started to pile it on,” Dale said. “They’ve got a lot of big dudes so we needed to play more aggressive than them and that’s what we did in the second half. They definitely came to play and we had to match that. We rebounded better, made better passes and made better decisions in the second half.”
West built an early 10-4 cushion behind Travon Jones’ three-point play off a slicing drive to the cup along with baskets from Dale, Stoffel and Carter Burmeister. Albert Lea, which lost a double overtime decision to the Scarlets 10 days ago, continued its physical style of play on its way to gaining a 26-24 lead at the break. Freshman center Dedoch Chan netted eight of his team-high 21 points in the opening half.
“The energy just wasn’t there in the first half and that comes from defensive intensity,” West coach Tom Boone said. “We got some good stops but then we didn’t complete the play by getting the ball with two hands. We talked about playing with more strength and intensity. We did a good job with that in the second half and had a good run to extend the lead.
“Our guys weathered the storm and we were pretty good at the free-throw stripe to finish things off. They have a lot of length so you have to be stronger with the ball and use more shot fakes. They present some match-up problems but overall I thought our defense played pretty well.”
Myers’ seven-point flurry in the early stages of the second half got the Scarlets rolling and the Dale-Nessler duo maintained the pace. Nessler ended up with 12 points while junior Alex Goettl chipped in eight points and three rebounds. Myers tallied nine points for the winners, who also got six points, six rebounds and four assists from Burmeister.
Albert Lea enjoyed a 31-23 edge on the boards while committing more turnovers 17-9. West connected on 23 of 49 from the field for 47 percent compared to the Tigers’ 23 of 47 for 49 percent.
West hosts Kasson-Mantorville Thursday.