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The Athletics strike back

LYLE – In a span of just 11 days, the Lyle-Pacelli boys basketball team flipped the script with a 33 point turnaround on Southland.

After losing to the Rebels by a score of 78-58 on Jan. 21, the Athletics bounced back and beat the Rebels 81-68 in Lyle Monday night.

A lot changed in the win for Lyle-Pacelli, most notably the Athletics (4-1 overall, 4-1 SEC) found a way to crash the boards, as they were out-rebounded by a slim margin at 32-31 against the physical Rebels. Sam Nelsen, a senior, did his part in the paint and that also got him going on offense as he finished with 24 points and eight rebounds.

Nelsen went on a personal 7-0 burst to put his team up 38-32 in the first half and he scored five straight points in the second half to make it 50-37 LP. He knocked down three three-pointers and he had an array of finishes near the rim.

“When we played them the first time, I didn’t box out and that was my big goal tonight was to box out. When you do one thing well, you do other things well and rebounding was my concern,” Nelsen said. “What’s important to me is what we win by. The number 13 is what matters to me, not the 24. I could’ve scored zero and I would’ve been happy with the win.”

Senior point guard Cole Walter got the ball rolling for the Athletics as he racked up 20 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. His penetration and playmaking opened up opportunities for Nelsen and sophomore Jake Truckenmiller, who had 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

“Once they hit their first shots, I just knew I had to get them shots,” Walter said of Nelsen and Truckenmiller. “I had to create for my teammates and they knocked them down. It was very fun. We shared the wealth and everybody had a good game. It was nice to see everyone upbeat and positive. We weren’t overconfident coming in, but we were confident. We were ready.”

Unlike the first meeting, the Athletics had sophomore Buay Koak back in the starting lineup. Koak hadn’t practiced or played in 14 days after being quarantined from a COVID-19 contact and he looked rusty in the first half with just four points. He finished with 13, and he put an exclamation point on the win with a breakaway jam.

LP head coach Scott Koenigs said the mere presence of Koak gave LP a lot more confidence against the Rebels this time around.

“Southland’s a really good basketball team and all of those boys work hard in the weight room. They’ve played a lot of basketball together,” Koenigs said. “I just felt like this time around we had our full lineup and we had Buay. It’s just one of those things that when Buay’s in the lineup, it’s a big stress reliever for our guys. We didn’t play very well in the first half of that first game and a lot of that had to do with Buay not being there.”

Dan Boe had six points and 10 rebounds for Southland (5-1 overall, 5-1 SEC) and Harrison Hanna finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists. 

“It’s a really good rivalry and I’m friends with all of those coaches,” Koenigs said. “It’s an intense game whenever we play and it was a lot of fun tonight. I’m sure they probably don’t agree, but they had the fun the first time we played.”

Southland 35 33  –  68

Lyle-Pacelli 43 38  –  81

LP scoring: Sam Nelsen, 24; Cole Walter, 20; Jake Truckenmiller, 17; Buay Koak, 13; Zach Bollingberg, 4; Jed Nelson, 3; free throws: 78 percent (14-for-18); rebounds: 31 (Nelsen, 8); turnovers: 13

Southland scoring: Ethan Forthun, 22; Eli Wolff, 16; Harrison Hanna, 13; Christian Hjelman, 7; Dan Boe, 6; Nick Boe, 4; free throws: 59 percent (10-for-17); rebounds: 32 (Nick Boe, 10); turnovers: 12