Laconia was happy entering Thursday with a 3-0 record, having dominated all three opponents.
But the Spartans hadn’t been truly tested, winning by an average margin of nearly 36 points.
No better remedy for that than a rivalry road game at St. Mary’s Springs, a team that aimed to avenge an 0-3 record against the Spartans last year.
Ninth-ranked Laconia got the challenge it needed from the Ledgers, and was the better team in the second half as it pulled ahead and held off Springs for a 62-51 victory and a 2-0 start in the Flyway Conference.
Spartans’ junior Brett Wittchow poured in 23 points to already give him 84 on the season, while senior Nick Vollmer had 19 as Laconia (4-0) rallied from a six-point deficit late in the second quarter.
“Springs is a good team. They battled hard and I’m happy to get out of here with a win,” Spartans coach Tom King said.
Down 29-28 at halftime, Laconia made 12-of-21 field goals the rest of the way. Starting with 1 minute left in the second quarter, it went on an 11-3 run that put it in control at 37-32.
“In the first half we played awesome,” Ledgers coach Kyle Krueger said. “We were throwing the punches and may have had them on their heels a little bit.”
Springs’ 2-3 zone gave the Spartans’ offense problems in the first half, holding them to 10-of-27 shooting and nine turnovers while the Ledgers led 15-10 after one quarter and eventually 29-23 late in the second.
Meanwhile, the Ledgers got eight points each from Brennen Ottery and Cory Nies in the first half as Springs continued to get inside to pick up baskets or fouls. The Ledgers (1-1, 1-1 Flyway) shot just 7-for-24 on field goals in the first half, but made 11-of-14 at the free-throw line.
“Springs hit a lot of shots and really attacked hard,” King said. “It didn’t seem in the first half that we could figure out how to play defense, either man-to-man or a zone. They kept penetrating and getting to the rack. Everything was going their way.”
The turning point was late in the second quarter as Laconia’s Noah Greve made two baskets in the final minute, including an old-fashioned three-point play to pull the Spartans within a one-point deficit at the half.
Laconia came out hot in the third quarter, where Vollmer had seven points, including the last two buckets to push the Spartans to a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter, 46-36.
“If they (Springs) made another little run, we’d be down 10-12 and in big trouble,” King said about the second quarter. “Our guys responded. We figured out if they’re in a zone, we’ve got to get two guys in the post and get some touches there. We started to do that. We got inside their zone and that made a big difference for rebounding and everything.”
“We made some adjustments in the first half, they made some at half, and we were a little slow reacting to their’s in the third quarter,” Krueger said. “They took it to us in the third.”
Laconia and Springs traded points throughout the fourth, where Wittchow had eight points on three baskets and two free-throws as the Ledgers came no closer than within five points at 54-49.
Noah Greve added 13 points for Laconia, while Nies led Springs with 14 and Ottery added 11.
Laconia — Noah Greve 13, Nick Vollmer 19, Brett Wittchow 23, Josh Haensgen 6, Linden Young 1. 3-pointers: 7 (Vollmer 3).
Springs — Ricky Stoegbauer 2, Sam Cruz 8, Cory Nies 14, Collin Ottery 6, Brennen Ottery 11, Ben Palmer 4, Tony Schmitz 4, Sam Schrauth 2. 3-pointers: 6 (Nies 3).