BEMUS POINT - The playoffs may not officially begin for another few weeks, but don't tell that to the Maple Grove Red Dragons. You see, the squad is already in full postseason mode, and making unsuspecting teams pay because of it.
The latest to suffer at the hands of the juggernaut from the Dutch Hollow Road? Pine Valley.
"I've been pushing our kids a little bit harder," Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer explained, "and we've been working on a couple of different things for the playoff push. We know what we're going to see in the playoffs with these other teams, so now we're adapting to that style.
Photo by Rob?Tucker
Pine Valley’s Spencer Sticek drives around a pair of Maple Grove defenders during Tuesday’s CCAA?Division 3 boys high school basketball game, at Maple Grove.
"Now's the time, we only have a few more games left."
Pushed by their coach, Maple Grove crashed the boards, outrebounding their league foes by an almost 2-1 margin, 40-22; amassed 26 steals; forced, by game's end, a whopping 36 turnovers; and generally played at a pace the visiting Panthers simply could not match on the way to securing an easy, 80-43 Division 3 victory on Tuesday night.
The Red Dragons, who improved to 12-1 overall and a perfect 9-0 in league, made the result of this contest known early.
Taking advantage of the Panthers' rebounding struggles and its 12 first-quarter turnovers, Maple Grove, it's in-your-face, full-court pressure defense in full swing, sprang out to a hefty 29-12 lead just eight minutes in.
During that opening frame it was Austin Goerke, who worked on the offensive glass, leading the way by tallying 14 points, while teammate Aaron Germain, who after every steal sprinted up the court on the fast break to cash in the easy baskets, chipped in with 11.
"I was disappointed with our effort in the first," Pine Valley coach Mark Mansfield said. "They're so fast and they're so quick. We couldn't keep up with their pace, and we didn't take care of the ball either. We had too many turnovers, gave up too many easy shots."
That opening-quarter lead only ballooned in the second.
Colin Green kicked things off with a deep jumper from the corner, then Corey Wefing knocked down a trey from the left wing, pushing the lead
to 18 points, 34-16. And Maple Grove wouldn't slow down from there, however, and poured in the next 23 points in a row over the next five minutes to make the score 54-16, and, by half, 60-18.
"I though we played very well and created a lot tonight," Fischer said. "I was really happy with our performance, and I thought we did a nice job of getting in the right spots."
And hitting the right shots, too.
"Maple Grove came out and hit every shot they took," Mansfield said, shaking his head. "This was a real good test for us, and obviously we still have a ways to go."
Goerke finished with a game-high 17 points and eight rebounds. Right behind him was Germain with 13, Will Soffel with 12 and Corey Wefing, who scored eight during the 23-0 run in the second, with 12 as well. Wefing also made six steals.
In all, 12 different players scored for the winners.
For Pine Valley, which had a better showing in the second half, outscoring the hosts 23-22, Jake Wilcox led with 11 points and seven rebounds.
"In the second half we played very hard," Mansfield said, "and maybe that'll help us in the four games we have left before playoffs."