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Groton defense powers victory over Roncalli

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Maddox Miller, left, works to move the ball up the floor as Groton Area’s Lane Tietz, right, applies backcourt pressure during Tuesday night’s game at the Roncalli High School gym. Photo by John Davis taken 2/14/2023

It was a tough night offensively for the Aberdeen Roncalli boys’ basketball program Tuesday night, as the Cavaliers dropped a 45-22 Northeast Conference decision to Groton at the Roncalli Gym.

The 22 points were a season-low for the Cavaliers, who could not find a rhythm on the offensive end of the floor against a relentless Groton defense.

“This week we’ve been really focusing on defense,” said Tiger junior Lane Tietz, who was the centerpiece of Groton’s defensive pressure. “We’ve been in a low spot in our season. Been trying to get back to us, and get back to how we play defense, because defense wins championships.”

It was certainly a slugfest to begin the night, as points proved hard to come by early. With a little more than two minutes left in the opening quarter, Groton held a 3-2 advantage and led just 7-4 by the buzzer.

But the Tigers found some breathing room in the second quarter thanks to a Tietz 3-pointer and a couple transition buckets that turned a five-point advantage into a double-digit lead, one the Tigers would not relinquish the rest of the way.

“We came into the game saying our defense was going to have to step up and stop them in the half court,” said Roncalli coach Dan Gallagher. “And for the most part, we did. They still ran their sets well and were able to execute. But the biggest thing was … eliminate the transition game and make them get into the half-court. Probably about half the game we were able to do that, but the other half – 19 turnovers led to a lot of transition points for them, or quick, easy buckets where we weren’t able to get into position.”

Roncalli did have some looks at the bucket but were unable to convert, save a late spurt of eight points in the latter half of the third quarter that nearly doubled the Cavaliers’ total. However, Roncalli leading scorer Maddox Miller was held to just two free throws on the night.

“(Miller) and Aiden (Fisher) had some good looks in the first quarter, just weren’t able to fall,” Gallagher said. “If we see a shot fall, maybe it changes the momentum of the game. At the same time, our team can’t rely on that. But credit to (Groton). A lot of people know Lane as a great scorer, but I thought he played phenomenal defense on Maddox.”

Tietz did finish with 13 points for the Tigers, one of two in double figures. Tate Larson added 14 points and nine rebounds.

“Lane and Jakob (Zak) are big-time defenders for us,” said Groton coach Brian Dolan. “They did a great job. We’ve been getting better all year about not having to gamble to cause turnovers. Being aggressive without gambling. … I thought everybody played great team defense.”

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Jayden Munroe, center, tries to reach for the ball as Groton Area’s Jacob Zak, left, moves up the floor during Tuesday night’s game at the Roncalli High School gym. In the foreground at right for the Cavaliers is Maddox Miller. Photo by John Davis taken 2/14/2023

Jayden Munroe finished with eight points to lead Roncalli.

The Cavaliers, 9-10 on the season, have one day of practice before hosting Deuel in their final home game of the season Thursday.

“(Wednesday’s) practice, we went into the locker room saying it’s our choice how we approach it,” Gallagher said. “We can go with our heads down, or we can look at the mistakes we made and figure out how we can correct them and get ready for our last home game on Thursday.”

GROTON (12-4): Lane Tietz 5 1-3 13, Cole Simon 3 1-3 7, Jakob Zak 2 1-2 5, Tate Larson 7 0-0 14, Ryder Johnson 2 0-0 4, Keegan Tracy 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 3-8 45.

ABERDEEN RONCALLI (9-10): Maddox Miller 0 2-2 2, Caden Shelton 0 2-2 2, Aiden Fisher 0 2-2 2, Jayden Munroe 4 0-0 8, Maddox May 1 1-2 3, Darwin Gambler 0 2-2 2, Keegan Stewart 0 0-1 0, Zane Backous 1 1-2 3. Totals 6 10-13 22.

Groton 7 22 39 45

Aberdeen Roncalli 4 9 17 22

3-pt field goals – Tietz 2. Fouls – Groton 16; Aberdeen Roncalli 13. Rebounds – Groton 28 (Larson 9, Zak 8). Assists – Groton 8 (Zak 2, Tietz 2). Turnovers – Groton 5. Steals – Groton 10 (Tietz 3, Zak 2, Tracy 2).

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