SAUK RAPIDS – For the first time in a long time, everybody expected to be in a St. Cloud Tech uniform actually was wearing one … and ready to go.
It made a difference in a tense Central Lakes Conference boys basketball game Tuesday night. The Tigers rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to beat Sauk Rapids 67-65.
“We were down the last time we played them,” said Tech freshman forward Brevyn Spann-Ford, whose steal with 22 seconds left helped set up the winning basket. “In the second half that time (a 76-56 win Dec. 2) we came back to beat them.
“In the second half tonight, we played well.”
Sauk Rapids’ Kobe Boraas is fouled by Tech’s Brevyn Spann-Ford (14) as he goes up for a shot over Tech’s Max Plombon during the first half at Sauk Rapids Tuesday.
Tech (6-2 CLC, 6-8) breaks a six-game losing streak and remains on pace atop the conference with Rocori and Brainerd, which each entered Tuesday with two losses.
“We’re getting there,” Tigers head coach Mike Trewick said. “We’ve probably had one practice with everybody back. (Jake) Mussman, (Jake) Martig and Rauch (Chuol) are all healthy and ready to go.”
Mussman has dealt with concussion symptoms but scored 19 points Tuesday, including 17 in the second half.
“He played real well,” said Martig, who is dealing with ankle sprain but had 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals Tuesday. “We played real well as a team in the second half.
“Having (Mussman) get hot helped, too. We stuck with stuff we’ve worked on in practice.”
It worked. Chuol is back after spending the holidays visiting his mother in Nebraska. With everyone back, the Tigers went 10 deep and overcame a 60-46 deficit with 7:37 to play.
They did it with a full-court press that forced 21 turnovers and better second-half shooting. Trewick said the Tigers passed the ball better.
Sauk Rapids, meanwhile, let one slip away.
“We just don’t know how to close,” Storm head coach Rich Spiczka said. “I think it’s learning how to win.
“We’re not 100 percent certain. No one’s learned how to do it. It’s part of the process. And we can’t turn it over 21 times, either.”
Spann-Ford, the 6-foot-5 freshman transfer from Sauk Rapids, tied it at 65-65 with a pretty basket underneath and in heavy traffic.
Spann-Ford then had a steal with less than 30 seconds to play. He went in for the layup and missed. But Mitchell Plombon was right behind him with the follow-up basket on the offensive rebound, giving Tech a 67-65 lead with 22.2 seconds to go.
“They were throwing (the pass to start the offense) lazy the whole game,” Spann-Ford said. “It was all about team effort on defense.
“It was a great team effort.”
The Storm had the ball for 20 seconds, but didn’t get a shot off, confused by the Tigers’ box-and-one defense. They ended up taking a timeout with 2.2 seconds left, but the shot was partially blocked by Spann-Ford.
“Rich is doing a great job,” Trewick said. “When you look at where they were last year, they’ve really improved.
“They are as good as anybody in their section (8-3A). That’s a scary team come playoff time.”
Sauk Rapids (4-4, 7-8) already has won more games than in the previous two seasons combined. The Storm have an exciting inside-out game that includes Kobe Boraas, Cody Landwehr and Camden Jackson most nights. And Spiczka reminds anyone who asks about Tyler Kranz, a 6-4 sophomore out with a right hand injury.
Boraas, a 6-3 junior had 30 points, including 18 in the first half. It’s the second time he’s scored 30 this season, also doing so against Alexandria.
Landwehr, a 6-6 freshman, had 14 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots Tuesday.
“It felt like he had a triple-double with blocked shots,” Trewick said.
Jackson, a 5-9 freshman, added 12 points and four steals.
The Storm play host to Brainerd at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Tech is host to Alexandria, also at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
TECH (67) — Jake Mussman 19 (3 assists), Darren Anderson 0, Brevyn Spann-Ford 13 (3 steals), Jake Martig 13 (8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals), Mitchell Plombon 6 (9 rebounds), James Kaczor 0, Max Martig 2, Rauch Chuol 5, Max Plombon 5, Darian Washington 4. Totals: FG 30, FT 5-10, REB 38, ASST 12, ST 13, TO 14, PF 17.
SAUK RAPIDS (65) — Casey Lynch 0 (2 steals), Camden Jackson 12 (4 steals), Jacob Doman 6 (10 rebounds), Cody Landwehr 14 (19 rebounds, 5 blocked shots), Kobe Boraas 30 (4 assists), Mitchell Waldorf 3, Cody Czeck 0 (4 assists), Taylor Ullman 0. Totals: FG 25, FT 6-17, REB 50, ASST 14, ST 7, TO 21, PF 14.
Halftime score: Sauk Rapids 36, Tech 31.
Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.