By Amanda Dyslin
Free Press Staff Writer
A youthful Mankato West boys basketball squad opened its season Tuesday night at West gym and it was the youngest of them all that proved to be the hero.
Freshman Jake Dale took an inbounds pass from Alex Knutson and hit the game-winning shot in the lane with two seconds left to give the Scarlets a 59-58 nonconference victory over Hutchinson.
Dale was making his first varsity start after seeing time a year ago as an eighth grader and he seemed unfazed playing against the taller front line of Hutchinson.
“I tried playing more aggressive than them. That’s what I like to do,” said Dale. “I was nervous at first, but after the first three or four minutes, I got loose and started playing my game a little bit more.”
While the freshman finished with 17 points and four rebounds, it was a pair of seniors that made big plays down the stretch.
Senior guard Alex Knutson had struggled throughout most of the game, but with his team trailing 52-48 with four minutes to go, hit a pair of medium range jumpers to tie the game at 52 with 2:35 remaining. He then hit fellow senior Austin Majeskie with a nice back door pass to put West ahead 57-55 with 1:10 left.
Majeskie led the Scarlets with 20 points and seven rebounds and hit a huge game-tying 3 right before scoring on the feed from Knutson.
“Those are guys that have been through it a little bit, said West coach Tom Boone. “When things are going too fast, they get it calmed down and get it to where they need to be.”
With this being such an inexperienced team, Majeskie knows he needs to show his leadership for the Scarlets to be successful.
“My role is to lead this team,” he said. “I need to show the young guys how to act on the court and set a good example for them.”
West opened last season against Hutchinson as well (on the road), but the outcome was very different as the Tigers blew the Scarlets out 84-48.
“This says a lot about the progress we made last year,” said Boone. “Last year from where we started and where we ended, probably was as much progress we’ve seen a varsity team make here. With all of those guys coming back, that gives us some high goals and it’s a great way to start the year.”
West (1-0) next takes the court Thursday with another nonconference game at New Ulm.