By Denny Weller
Special to The Free Press
With a tough three-game stretch ahead next week, the Mankato Loyola boys basketball team enjoyed Saturday night’s 70-27 Valley Conference rout of Alden-Conger at the Fitzgerald gym.
Junior guard Carson Seifert fired in 21 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Crusaders controlled things from the opening tip, improving to 3-2, 3-0 in the Valley.
Four other players — Dennis Hoppe, Lance Gaspar, Connor Tanhoff and Alexander Piementel — each put through eight points for the winners, who came up with 19 steals and put up 70 shots, making 26 for 37.8 percent.
“We had our juniors gone on retreat Wedsneday, Thursday and Friday so they hadn’t touch a ball in four days,” Loyola coach Tim Anderson said. “They looked a bit rusty so it was good to get a game like this where everyone can touch the ball and have a chance to score. Those guys on the bench work very hard in practice, and this was a fun reward for them.
“I thought we were very unselfish tonight, and that’s one of the things we coach here. If there’s an open man, let’s get the ball to him. We didn't finish as well as we’d like, but I was happy with the way they shared the ball.”
Loyola scored the game’s initial eight points — two transition buckets by Tanhoff along with Seifert’s 17-footer and a layup from Reilly Knuston — before the Knights showed signs of life by pulling within 15-9 on a right-side 3-pointer from sophomore Elijah Hallman.
Leading 18-11, the Crusaders reeled off 12 straight points to take a commanding lead on Seifert’s layup off a nice feed from Piemental. Gaspar and Piemental then delivered back-to-back three-point plays before 3-pointers from Gaspar and Piemental stretched the margin to 46-16 at the break. Seifert had 16 first-half points while Piementel and Gaspar tallied eight apiece.
“We don't take anyone lightly because everyone is going to come out and play hard,” Seifert said. “We’re a pretty fast team so we were able to outrun them up and down the court. I didn’t really have to do much, my teammates helped me out and I shot pretty well. We play St. Peter and Lester Prairie next week so we’re going to really have to come out and play hard.”
Seifert converted a a three-point play off a nifty three-pass fastbreak to begin the second half before leaving the game momets later after working the offensive glass for a basket. Loyola’s reserves continued the onslaught as Hoppe’s three-point play, 3-pointer and driving hoop led the way. Senior guard Evan Ellingworth chipped in seven points and five rebounds.
“We took it to the rack which is what coach always tells us to do,” Tanhoff said. “We didn’t overlook them because we take every opponent seriously. We know we’ve got a big game with St. Peter Tuesday so we wanted to do the fundamentals right and take care of the things we can control. Our goal was to put ball pressure on them so we could force a lot of turnovers, and we did that.”
Senior Dom Ofsdahl led the Knights (0-4) with nine points,and Tommy Geesman added six. Alden-Conger managed to connect on just 11 of 51 from the field for 22 percent.