By PAUL DELANEY
The inability to deliver the knockout punch appears to be the difference last week for the Medical Lake boy’s basketball team.
With losses to Riverside 54-50 Tuesday and 50-42 Saturday at home versus Freeman sandwiched around a 66-47 victory at Kettle Falls the Cardinals move into the final three games of the regular season 4-5 (6-11 overall) in Northeast A League play.
“The closer games we just haven’t closed one out yet,” Cards’ head coach Arnold Brown said. “I call it just not getting it done.”
Medical Lake will get a few more chances to get it done in contests that will determine playoff seeding for district play that begins Feb. 11.
They played at Newport (4-5 NEA, 8-9 overall) this past Tuesday, hosts Lakeside (8-0, 13-3) Friday at 7:30 p.m. before finishing with Chewelah (1-8, 4-13) next Tuesday, Medical Lake will be trying to tie with Newport and earn a home game in the first round of the league playoffs that begin Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Last Tuesday Riverside (7-1, 14-2) broke away from a close halftime score where they led 22-20 with an 18-point third that provided the necessary points to hold off an 18-14 Cardinals’ fourth quarter surge.
“You have to have a certain mental toughness to get through some things,” Brown said as the 14 point night from Tellas Johnson could not get his team over the hump after they tied the game in the final two minutes.
“We just haven’t been able to close out a game in the fourth quarter, especially the close ones, it’s tough to do,” Brown said. “But we’re in the game, that’s the good thing.”
At Kettle Falls Friday behind the career high 26 points from sophomore guard Jordan Rohweder, the Cardinals got off to a fast start, leading 21-12 after the first quarter and never were threatened after that. Rohweder contributed 15 of ML’s points in the opening stanza, all from 3-point range.
Johnson added 18 and Cory Wagner 10 while Connor McKern led the Bulldogs with 17.
Against Freeman (5-3, 8-7) Saturday, Medical Lake was unable to expand on a 13-8 first-quarter lead against the Scotties. Freeman’s 20-7 edge in the second quarter ultimately was the difference as the teams tied over the final two quarters.
“It was one of those hard knockout grind games,” Brown said.
Rohweder had another big night with 15 points, the only Cardinal in double-figures. Freeman’s Ryan Maine led all scorers in the game with 21, including 12 from 3-point range. Maine’s final 3 proved to be the points that put the game out of reach.
Medical Lake entered the contest within reach of Freeman for third place.
“This time of year you have to beat somebody as good as you or better than you,” Brown said. “To be able to do those things you have to be able to take care of those last-minute things, knuckle down on D, not blow your assignments; you know obviously timing plays, timely rebounding, turnovers, those types of things.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.