TRUMAN - Ryan Kruse produced game-highs of 27 points, 14 rebounds and six steals on Thursday night, with his last theft and final basket proving the decisive factors in Truman.
Kruse pocketed a deflection, glanced at the evaporating seconds on the scoreboard as he dribbled upcourt and tossed in the game-winning runner as time elapsed to propel the St. Clair Cyclones to a 59-57 Valley Conference basketball decision over the Truman/Martin Luther BluejayKnights.
"It's going to take some time to get over that one. I guess we'll have to take it down to three seconds instead of six for the last shot next time," TML mentor Roland Wendt said with a wry smile.
BOARD BATTLE — Truman/Martin Luther’s Jeremy Smith (3) battles St. Clair’s Kaleb Lehmann (53) for a rebound during Valley Conference basketball action Thursday night in Truman. TML’s Chandler Greier (23), Sam Geistfeld (10), DaMarko Thomas (5) and Cade Ekstrom (1), along with St. Clair’s Ryan Kruse (25) watch the action. Photo by Leanna Becker
The BluejayKnights' 1-2 scoring tandem of forward Sam Geistfeld and point guard Cade Ekstrom, however, put a grin on Wendt's face five minutes into the opening segment.
Trailing 9-0 to open the game, Ekstrom delivered 11 of his 16 points and Geistfeld generated 12 of his team-best 20 points to reverse the momentum and the lead in the BluejayKnights' direction during the final 13 minutes of the first half.
Ekstrom's gliding runner ended TML's scoring drought before Geistfeld snapped the nets on a 3-pointer to cap the home team's countering 13-4 surge to produce the first of seven ties on the game at the 8:36 juncture.
Kruse, who connected on 11 of 20 field goals, answered by reeling off 11 of the Cyclones' ensuing 13 points to create one of 16 lead changes on the contest at 26-25 with 3 minutes left before intermission.
Alex Weihe, who contributed eight rebounds off the bench, countered for TML by netting four of his five points to swing a 30-26 lead back to the home team.
Ekstrom later pocketed a midcourt steal and hit the layup to extend the BluejayKnights' lead to 34-27 with only 8 seconds remaining, but the Cyclones' Miklo Miller drained a buzzer-beating pull-up 10-footer in the lane.
Kruse and teammate Tyler Fandrich, who scored 16 points, carried the momentum from Miller's last-second basket into the second half as the duo combined for a 10-2 run to swing the lead back to St. Clair.
TML forward Jeremy Smith, however, countered by scoring all seven of his team's initial points of the second half to reverse the momentum and lead back to the home team at 41-39 with 12:26 to go.
After Ekstrom's 3-pointer from the right corner off one of Smith's four assists inched the BluejayKnights ahead 47-46 at the 6-minute mark, TML and St. Clair exchanged the lead seven more times down the stretch.
Geistfeld drilled a pair of 3s to offset treys from the Cyclones' Michael Berry and Dylan Prange before Kruse's front-end conversion of a one-and-one knotted the game at 57-all with 1:23 remaining.
The BluejayKnights committed a turnover 20 seconds later before Weihe rebounded a Cyclone miss at the 39-second juncture. Mike Nett pocketed a steal for St. Clair just three seconds later before Weihe pocketed the basketball following a frenzied scrum near midcourt with 22 seconds to go.
Geistfeld neared double-double territory by pulling down a team-best nine rebounds to go with his 20 points, while Ekstrom collected six boards, three steals and four assists to complement his 16-point effort. Smith added nine points, eight rebounds and four assists to TML's cause.
Nett doled out a game-high nine assists for the Cyclones.
Truman/Martin Luther (4-3, 0-3 Valley) faces Ellsworth at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, in the first round of the Mountain Lake Area Invitational in Mountain Lake.
St. Clair (6-1, 2-1) plays St. Croix Lutheran at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, in the opening round of the Bethany Lutheran College Tournament in Mankato.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's 66, Truman 39 - Maddy Helget poured in a game-best 30 points to power the Knights to a 27-point non-league triumph over the Bluejays on Thursday night in Sleepy Eye.
Helget, who drilled seven 3-pointers on the night, needed 19 points prior to the game to reach the 1,000-point career scoring plateau.
Cleo Maloney collected 12 points and four steals to top Truman, while teammate Brooke McDonald produced a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Emily Zaharia chipped in eight points, seven rebounds and four assists for the Bluejays, who made 7 of 17 free throws on the game.
Nikki Carr added eight points for St. Mary's.
Truman (0-7, 0-5 Valley) faces Ellsworth at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 27, in the first round of the Mountain Lake Area Invitational in Mountain Lake.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's (7-3) is idle until playing Minnesota Valley Lutheran on Friday, Jan. 4, in a nonconference contest in New Ulm.