Seniors lead Athletics to a conference title

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, March 11, 2021

LYLE  — The Lyle-Pacelli boys basketball team’s senior class has grown up and grown together over the last 10 years and they put an exclamation mark on their strangest season yet as they locked up the SEC West title when the Athletics beat Grand Meadow 60-42 Thursday.

Jed Nelson put up 21 points to lead L-P (15-2 overall, 14-1 SEC), but it was a hustle play he made that gave the Athletics an edge down the stretch. After Cole Walter made one of two free throws, Nelson tracked down an offensive rebound and dumped it off to Buay Koak, who found a wide open Sam Nelsen for a baseline three-pointer that put the Athletics up 46-33 with 7:45 left in the game.

Nelson played sparingly as an eighth-grader on the L-P team that won the conference in 2015, but he played a much bigger role on this run.

It’s a lot of hard work, day in and day out,” Nelson said. “You have to have the best practice every day and when you’re in the game, you can’t have any plays off. That’s what we’ve been preaching all year.”

Nelsen, also a senior, finished with 14 points for the Athletics. Not even the pandemic could break up the bond he and his fellow seniors have built up over the years on and off the court.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends over the years and we’ve been playing together since we were second and third graders,” Nelsen said. “We spent a lot of Saturdays and Sundays together and it’s been nothing but fun. We’re really thankful for the community that we’ve kind of created here.”

Nelson scored on an inside cut to the hoop to put L-P up 25-16 late in the first half, but the Superlarks closed the gap to 25-21 when Mason Geier hit a three-pointer and Colt Landers put back a missed shot to bring GM (8-6 overall, 7-6 SEC) within 25-24 with 1:42 left in the half.

Landers was called for his fourth foul with 11:25 left in the game, while L-P was leading 39-31.

The Athletics have now won eight in a row as they’ll enter next week’s Section 1A Tournament on a high note.

While big games lie ahead, L-P head coach Scott Koenigs took a moment to look back on how far his team has come.

To watch these guys develop, it’s different now. They play so much better defense and they get after people. Hats off to these guys, they’re not real big, but they go hard every night,” Koenigs said. “Cole Walter has grown up from a little tiny eighth grader to a confident kid who has a crazy assist-to-turnover ratio and is a stud on defense. He’s turned into a really good basketball player. “

Grand Meadow 24 18  —  42

Lyle-Pacelli 27 33  —  60

L-P scoring: Jed Nelson, 21; Sam Nelsen, 14; Cole Walter, 9; Buay Koak, 8; Zach Bollingberg, 7; Jake Truckenmiller, 1; free throws: 12-for-21; rebounds: 27 (Koak, 9); turnovers: 7

GM scoring: Taylor Glynn, 10; Evan Oehlke, 9;  Colt Landers, 7; Blake Ludemann, 6; Roman Warmka, 3; Mason Geier, 3; Zac Hoffman, 2; free throws: 2-for-5; rebounds: 34 (Warmka, 8); turnovers: 15