Maranatha outduels SW Christian

Tonight takes The Czar to Maranatha for a boys/girls homecoming double-dip with Southwest Christian. All 4 teams in the thick of the conference races. One of the best environments of the season with a full house that had a buzz at the end of the 3 PM girls JV game. Great music, great fans and you had to love the Chicago Bulls intros with the spotlight and darkness included. Outside of the top 2 Hopkins games of the season, I haven't seen a better group of fans all season. The Noreen clan all on hand watching. A nice performance of "A High School Musical" at halftime of the girls varsity game.

The Girls Varsity game gets a nice double-double performance from MCA's 8th grade post Onye Osemenam but SW Christian wins easily after a 28-10 start. 54-37 SW Christian wins the girls game to stay in the race with New Life in the MCAA. Boys JV goes double OT with MCA missing a couple of chances to win it. On to the boys varsity game as we're way late getting started. Game didn't end until 10:30.

SW Christian decides to come out 2-3 zone with star Caleb Palkert in the middle. Josh Hanson gets the initial 1 on 1 assignment on Palkert on the other end with Jay Higgins seeing the major minutes in that role. After a couple of Palkert buckets, MCA gets 7 in a row for a 15-6 lead with 6:20 in the half. SW Christian goes on a 10-2 run late in the half thanks to 6 free throws from Palkert. Both teams fail to take the last shot so SW Christian comes back and gets blocked by Hanson who turns it into a free throw for Darian Pittman. 20 all at the half. Palkert with 10 points (2-6 FGs), 6 rebounds and 5 blocks as he's controlling the paint in the zone defense ala Chad Calcaterra. Most of his offense came off of inbounds plays when he wasn't at the foul line (6-6 in the half). Josh Hanson 1 point, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks but 0-5 FGs

Hanson starts the 2nd half with a nice dive to the hoop against the zone for 2. Palkert puts back his own miss before trading triples with Jay Higgins. 28-25 Stars at 15:05. Jamie Hammond with a triple for MCA to tie it at 30 at 13:03. SW Christian now out of the zone going man. Palkert with a post 2 at 11 and Jordan Dye with a putback for a 34-30 SWC lead. But SaVaughn Jordan counters with a layup and then Pittman goes over Palkert for 2 and the foul. 35-34 MCA at 8:18. SWC back to the 2-3 zone. Pittman then gets a steal and finds Hanson for a layup. 37-34 MCA at 6:55. Peter Sorenson with a tip in and Dye with a layup and SWC has the lead back at 5:45. Then a fast sequence with Jordan getting a layup and Pittman scoring around a Sorenson 2 all within 15 seconds. Dye then with a steal for 2 free throws 44-41 SW Christian with 4:19 left.

Then the officiating gets interesting. Pittman gets a layup and finds Jordan on a runout. Palkert goes for the block and gets a technical for slapping the backboard. Terrible call gives him his 4th foul. Josh Hanson hits the 2 technical free throws and Jay Higgins buries a left wing three on the ensuing possession. MCA back on top 46-44 with 3 minutes to play as we continue to go back and forth in the half. Collin Kruse misses a front end for SWC with 2:51 left. Higgins misses a front end at 2:10 for MCA. Palkert gets the ball on the left block and its in and out. Tie up of the rebound goes to MCA at 1:41. MCA over the top of the press. Palkert tries to take a charge on Jordan but the official doesn't think he got there and he's gone with foul #5 at 1:40. Jordan gets the crowd going. But somehow its not a shooting foul and Jordan misses the front end. SWC with a sloppy turnover at 1:24. Higgins misses the front end again at 1:10 but Jordan grabs the offensive rebound. Pittman fouled and finally somebody makes a free throw. The 2 FTs at 1:04 make it 48-44 MCA. Jordan then commits his 5th 2 seconds later on a silly reachin but Dye misses both free throws. After a Higgins FTs, Kruse is wide open and buries a 3 with 48.3 seconds left and SWC still has life. 49-47 MCA. Dye absolutely hacks someone for a steal (no call) and then gets mugged going to the basket (no call). Tie up to SWC. Sorenson with a good post up look from the right box but its no good with 30 seconds left. Pittman on an inbounds tries to throw it off someone's back and fortunately its a tie up that goes to MCA with 23.6 left. Hanson with a bucket on the inbounds but Sorenson comes right back with a strong 3 point play at 15.1. Matt Eickman makes 2 FTs including a rattle around of the 1st one with 14.1 left, SWC down 3 but I think they're out of time outs. They travel with 3.6 left and never get a look. 53-50 Maranatha in a very entertaining class A game.

Southwest Christian falls to 10-5 and they're now 2 back in the MCAA race. Caleb Palkert still not getting enough touches as I've complained about in the past. 1 FG and no FTs in the last 15 minutes. He ends up with 17, 13 and 7 blocks. Just basic post ups for him tonight. Jordan Dye with a nice night of 13 and 6. Peter Sorenson with 11. Everyone except Palkert returns next season.

MCA gets a signature win as they improve to 15-2 and stay 1 game back of Lester Praire (they beat Heritage tonight so no help for the Mustangs). Granted they really struggled against the 2-3 zone and they don't really have a dynamic shooter to bust zones. Darian Pittman leads with way with 14 points. Josh Hanson with 9 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Nice team, but not the MCA teams of years past. MCA also very young as they only have Matt Eickman leaving the rotation.

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