Waterford tough on Elkhorn boys
With his team needing a win to keep the heat on Southern Lakes Conference front-runner Waterford, Handel used all his timeouts and played almost his entire roster by midway through the second quarter.
But it just wasn’t enough to slow down the Wolverines.
Waterford’s swarming defense proved to be too much for the inexperienced Elks as the Wolverines remained unbeaten in conference play with an impressive 56-40 victory.
The Wolverines’ defense forced 12 Elkhorn turnovers and allowed just seven points in the first half. Meanwhile, Joseph Sturino posted a game-high 24 points, including five three-pointers, to help Waterford (9-2, 6-0) maintain its lead in the Lakes race.
Defending champion Elkhorn (6-4, 3-2), which has dropped four its last five games, fell two games behind Waterford after being dominated by a superior defense.
“I was really proud of defensive effort tonight,” Waterford coach Mickey Mala said. “We were aggressive, and I thought we took them out of a lot of what they wanted to do.”
The biggest thing the Wolverines took away was the Elks 6-11 center, Skyler O’Laughlin. The lanky center, who averages 17 points a game, managed just six points against the quicker defenders.
“We really needed to get the ball inside and really had a hard time getting it inside,” Handel said. “So that’s where our problems started, and then we passed up some shots on top of that.”
Just getting off a shot was a chore for Handel’s team in the first half. Elkhorn was held scoreless for the first six minutes of the game until Brock Poggensee ended the drought with a free throw. That cut the deficit to 9-1 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Matters only worsened for the Elks in the second quarter when Waterford stunned the crowd with a 10-0 run that put the Wolverines up 19-3, then 23-7 by halftime.
“They as just athletically superior to us,” Handel said of the Wolverines. “And it showed in the first half.”
Despite being outmanned, the Elks unleashed a 10-2 run to start the third quarter and cut the lead to 25-17.
The Elks’ comeback was short-lived, however, after Sturino drilled three three-pointers in the next two minutes to rebuild the Wolverine lead 36-23.
Elkhorn never drew closer than eight the rest of the way.
“I thought we played with a little bit more character and heart in the second half,” Handel said. “And that it least got them sweating a little bit.”
Poggensee had a team-high 12 points, while Ryan Bowes added 11 in a losing cause for Elkhorn.
WATERFORD 56, ELKHORN 40
Waterford (56)—Steffens, 1-1-4; Sturino, 9-1-24; Plantz, 1-3-5; Chart, 0-2-2; Ciano, 3-3-10; Vacarro, 2-3-9; Knurr, 1-0-2. Totals: 17-13-56.
Elkhorn (40)—Bowes, 2-5-11; Poggensee, 3-4-12; O’Laughlin, 3-0-6; Majewski, 3-0-7; Hassler, 2-0-4. Totals: 13-9-40.
Waterford 9 14 17 16—56
Elkhorn 3 4 16 17—40
Three point goals—Waterford 9 (Sturino 5, Vacarro 2, J. Steffens, Ciano), Elkhorn 5 (Bowes 2, Poggensee 2, Majewski). Free throws missed—Waterford 13, Elkhorn 15. Total fouls—Waterford 23, Elkhorn 18. Fouled out—Vacarro, O’Laughlin.
Junior varsity–Waterford 53, Elkhorn 42