By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
LAKE CRYSTAL —
From 2006 to 2011, the Jug stayed at Mapleton, and Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial grabbed it last year.
But absence made the heart grow fonder, and the Eagles wanted it back.
“Sometimes you get spoiled when you have it six years in a row,” Maple River coach Chad Ostermann said. “When you lose it, you want it back.”
Jaron Denn scored 18 points, including 13 in a key stretch late in the first half, as Maple River defeated Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial 69-49 in a Valley Conference boys basketball game Friday in Lake Crystal. The victory sends the Jug back to Mapleton, and the Eagles players celebrated heartily when they got that oversized coffee cup after the final horn.
“Last year, we had a lot of injuries, and everyone said they still would have won.,” Denn said. “This proves that it would have been different last year.”
LCWM led 19-17 until the Eagles finished the first half on a 19-6 run, keyed by Denn.
The Knights closed the gap to five twice in the early part of the second half, but again the Eagles were stronger at the end, using a 13-1 run over the final four minutes to stretch the margin.
“We were terrible in the first half, and we played better in the second half,” Denn said. “We need to learn from our mistakes and keep getting better.”
Denn also had 10 rebounds, and Ben Larson scored 13 points with six boards. Michael Lewis scored 10, and Zach Krengel had eight rebounds.
“We have a lot of players that know when to step up and make a basket,” Ostermann said. “We have some good balance.”
For LCWM, Michael Coates had 17 points and six rebounds, Bryson Yackel added 14 points and Lucas Hesser had 10.
With Maple River jumping to the Gopher Conference next season, Ostermann said he hopes the Jug series, which began in the 1970s, can continue.
Maple River (11-2, 6-0 in Valley) plays today against Roncalli, Wis., at the Midwest Players Classic at La Crosse, Wis. LCWM (7-7, 5-2) plays Tuesday at Mountain Lake Area.