Tigers edge Knights, end losing streak
The streak is over. The Medford boys basketball team ended a 29-game losing streak at home with a 60-58 victory over Kenyon-Wanamingo (1-10) on Thursday.
Previous to Thursday, The Tigers' (1-4) last win was Feb. 16, 2016 against Kenyon-Wanamingo.
"It's just nice to get that monkey off our back," Medford coach Todd Schneider said. "Now we can move on and not have [the losing streak] lingering in the back of minds."
The game started out at a slower pace than what the Tigers are accustom too because the Knights' zone defense did a good job of slowing down Medford's fast breaks.
"That's how be scored most of our points this year," Schneider said. "They ran a good zone and they got back into quickly, but we started figuring it out."
The Tigers received a boost from the return of their leading scorer Alex Gengler. The senior had missed some action due to an ankle injury.
Gengler wasted no time in making a impact. He scored nine of his 13 points in the first half.
Senior Cole Volkmann said just having Gengler on the court gives the team a morale boost.
"We know he's going to do his job," he said. "He carried a lot of the load for us in the first half tonight."
Medford mounted an early 17-10 lead, but Kenyon-Wanamingo charged back on a 13-0 run to take a 23-17 advantage near the end of the first half.
However, the Tigers settled in and finished the half on a 5-0 run to narrow the Knights' lead to 23-22.
"That's was really important," Schneider said. "We have not performed well at the end of the first half a number of times this year. To make a run and get it within a one-point game changed everything."
The Knights extended their lead to as much as eight points in the second half.
Medford senior Bryce McCarthy and junior Noah Pirkl made play after play to chip away at Kenyon-Wanamingo's lead and the keep the Tigers in the game. McCarthy scored 11 of his 16 points after halftime.
"[McCarthy] an animal," Volkmann said. "He gets buckets when you need them all the time."
Schneider said McCarthy has been fantastic for the Tiger's all year.
"He's just been amazing," he said "His ability to force turnovers and get to the rim has been great."
McCarthy said the win goes a long way in building the Tiger's confidence as a team.
"We got that first win out the way," he said. "It's just going to continue on from here and we are going to get better."
Pirkl scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half. He hit a huge 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 45-42 lead with 2:08 remaining in the game.
Schneider said Pirkl gave the Tigers the push they needed late in the game.
"We all see [Pirkl] is practice every day and we know what he can do," he said. "He can shoot as good as anybody from just about any distance on the court."
Good ball handling and a clutch free-throw sooting sealed the victory for Medford down the stretch.
McCarthy said he was confident the Tigers would come away with a victory.
"Things got a little iffy about midway through the game," he said. "But we didn't give up. We kept our heads and hearts in it, and we came back and won it fair and square."