MOOSEHEART – You can’t teach height. Just ask the Indian Creek boys basketball team.
The Timberwolves had trouble with Mooseheart’s trio of South Sudanese giants in a 75-39 loss to the Ramblers Tuesday.
A week after being notified by the IHSA that Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou and Akim Nyang will all be eligible for the Class 1A postseason, the Ramblers had little trouble with an Indian Creek squad that coach Ron Ahrens thinks is as good defensively as any his team has faced all season.
“On Friday night [Indian Creek] only gave up 39 points to the [No. 10]-ranked team in the state,” Ahrens said. “I’m really happy with our offense. Tonight, it was the Mak and Manny show. When Manny hits four 3’s and doesn’t miss in that first half, that makes a big difference and opens up the middle for us.”
Deng and Puou worked inside and out throughout the first half as Mooseheart raced out to a 39-20 halftime lead.
Deng was 4 for 4 from 3-point range in the first half to lead the Ramblers with 17 points at the break. Puou had 14 first-half points on a mixture of layups and jump hooks.
It was Puou’s second-half start allowed the Ramblers to pull away as the 6-10 junior blocked the first four Indian Creek shots of the half. Mooseheart (17-5) scored on each of its possessions after Puou blocks as the Ramblers went on a 10-1 run at the start of the third quarter.
“We came out in the second half with four blocked shots and we scored off every one of them,” Ahrens said. “I’ve said it all year – if we can get our defense to set up our offense, we’re going to be tough. We’re getting better at the right time.”
Despite the noticeable size difference, Indian Creek (13-10) battled, pulling to within 29-18 with 3:11 to go in the second quarter after back-to-back baskets from 6-9 center Garrison Govig.
Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz was pleased with the Timberwolves’ defense in the first half considering the size difference.
“I thought we played really well defensively in the first half,” Piekarz said. “The shots they were making were contested and we were getting to our rotations. When you have a team like that that’s hot, even if they are contested, they are going to knock those down.”
Many of the contested shots came with two and three defenders draped all over Puou, who helped the Ramblers shoot a robust 57 percent from the field. Puou scored 10 of his game-high 25 points in the second half as Mooseheart pulled away.
“We’ve been learning from our mistakes and working hard to correct them,” Deng said, who finished with 11 assists. “I just put it in my mind that I had to play hard and my mentality is to just play basketball. I found my spot on the floor that I practice from every day.”
Indian Creek senior Jaron Todd finished with a team-high 18 points. Tate hit a 3-pointer early and hit three free throws in the first quarter as the Timberwolves claimed an early 9-5 lead before the Ramblers took over.
“I thought Jaron did a nice job tonight knocking down some shots, he’s usually our top three-point shooter,” Piekarz said. “We were going strong to the lane. We knew they had the height and if we went soft, they would block it.”