By Drew Lyon
Special to The Free Press
Alexander Piementel’s first high school home game on American soil was a proverbial slam dunk.
The junior foreign exchange student from Hamburg, Germany scored 12 points and nabbed eight rebounds in his Mankato Loyola home debut, as the Crusaders rebounded from its season-opening loss to defeat Cleveland 81-62 Thursday at Fitzgerald Gym.
“It was very different,” said Piementel, who arrived in Mankato in August. “It’s a different style in America.
“The rules are different, and we don’t have school teams in Germany, only club teams, so it was fun to play in front of a crowd like this. It was a good feeling.”
If Piementel experienced struggles adjusting to the American style of play, he didn’t let it show. After suffering in his season debut what his coach, Tim Anderson, called “that dear-in-headlights look”, Piementel appeared to adapt seamlessly to Loyola’s frenetic offensive and assertive defense from the outset Thursday, scoring two early buckets and helping the Crusaders build a 45-35 halftime lead.
“Everyone’s been really supportive,” he said. “It’s a cool team, and it’s been fun hanging out with my teammates.”
Anderson, faced with an inexperienced roster, is glad to have him.
“He’s a great kid, very coachable,” he said. “Everyone’s still trying to figure out their roles on this team , and he’s been a great addition, and has really helped the chemistry of our team. I think he’s having fun.”
Evidently, he’s already well-versed in handling postgame questions from the media, too.
“The defense was the key,” Piementel said. “Everyone was hustling for the ball. The team chemistry isn’t there yet, but it’s still only the second game, and we improved a lot from the first game.”
Cleveland, hampered by first-half turnovers, had trouble establishing an offensive cohesion. A pair of Tommy Kraft jumpers early in the first half tied the score at 11, but the Clippers trailed for the remainder of the game.
The Crusaders, led by Evan Ellingworth’s 17 points and Carson Seifert’s 14 points, added to their lead in the second half. It peaked late in the game at 76-54 after a layup by Lance Gaspar.
“We’re not a big team,” Anderson said, “so we’re going to have to try and get out and get points in transition and get the game a little up-tempo. That’s one of the things we need to do.”
Bryce Skistad and Tyler Seitz led the Clippers with 11 points each.
Anderson was eager to erase the memory left from his team’s 25-point opening game loss to Sleepy Eye-St. Mary’s.
“Monday we did not look good,” Anderson said. “This game couldn’t come soon enough, but I thought we passed the ball better tonight; we played better defensively but we still have a lot of work to do in that area.”
On Saturday, Loyola (1-1) plays at home against Waterville-Elysian-Morristown while Cleveland (1-1) plays at home versus Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial.