Braves extend Lakers’ losing streak behind Peterson’s big night
Ben Peterson had 33 points in Benson's 58-53 win over Minnewaska on Tuesday night.
When the Benson boys basketball team needed a big shot, senior guard Ben Peterson was there. His 33 points lifted the Braves over Minnewaska Area in a performance that left Lakers' head coach Phil Johnsrud searching for answers.
"I need something new because it seems like everybody we play there's a kid who has a night like this," Johnsrud said. "He got hot. He hit a ton of shots. You just have to throw your hands up sometimes and accept there's not a whole lot you can do to stop it."
The Braves (7-8) outlasted the Lakers (6-8) and went on to win 58-53. Benson's win avenged a loss to Minnewaska on Feb. 2, where the Lakers won 50-37. Tuesday night marked the second consecutive night where the Lakers fell short. On Monday, Minnewaska fell in another heartbreaker to Pipestone (6-8) by a score of 59-54.
"They brought a more physical and aggressive approach than they did earlier this season," Johnsrud said. "They kind of caught us off guard, and I don't think our kids responded the way we'd like them to. They were physical, and they didn't give us anything easy. We had a big size advantage, and they held their own inside. Their attitude had a lot more intensity than the last time we played them."
Peterson hit a pair of threes to give Benson an early 10-6 lead before Lakers' senior forward Brady Hoffman got in the mix. He finished the game with a team-high 19 points by shooting 77% from the field.
"He can exploit those mismatches, and we should be doing that all the time against these smaller teams," Johnsrud said. "That's been one of our things is we've never had all five guys firing at the same time this year. We usually have a couple, but not all five. Tonight, I thought Brady played really well inside and had a nice game in the post."
Senior forward Aaron Ver Steeg had a strong night with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Johnsrud hoped the leadership from two of his seniors would inspire confidence up and down the lineup.
"(Ver Steeg) has really come on as of late," Johnsrud said. "The first half of the season, he was really quiet. He wasn't rebounding well. He wasn't shooting well either. He and Brady played lights out compared to the rest of the guys tonight. You'd like to think they could give the other guys a boost in games like this, but that's hard to predict sometimes."
The Lakers ended the first half with a defensive stand and clung to a 26-24 lead. Ver Steeg had a quick six points out of the break but was matched by Peterson on the other end.
Benson went on an 11-4 run sparked by Peterson's four-point play. He also found senior guard Abe Peterson with a circus pass midway through the second half to put the Braves up 42-37.
The Lakers clawed their way back into the game before Hoffman put home a tough layup to go ahead 47-46. However, that was the last time Minnewaska would lead.
Benson held a three-point lead with just over a minute left in regulation. A miscommunication for Minnewaska squandered an opportunity to get the ball back down 54-51, which led to Peterson's game-icing free throws.
One of Johnsrud's most significant concerns with his team is their inability to hit three-pointers in close games. The Lakers were 3-of-10 from behind the arch and missed several shots that could've closed the gap in the final minutes.
"The sample size is plenty big now," Johnsrud said. "We are not a team that is consistently a threat with our perimeter shooting. We don't have that ability to create those opportunities. Our kids are still tight and together, and we haven't flown the coop, but that's always a concern. As a coach, you always think about those tight games that we could've won if we had those abilities. When you get to this point late in the season, you worry about where your team is trending. That's where we are at right now."
Minnewaska's four-game skid has flipped its season on its head. Despite having a senior-heavy roster, the Lakers struggle to put the pieces together consistently against capable teams. With three games left before the Section 3AA tournament, Johnsrud hopes his team can turn the ship around before it's too late.
"I think we can make an impact," Johnsrud said. "In our talk after the game, we said that nothing is ever given to us, and sometimes we don't realize that until it's too late. It's getting late, and we need to realize we have to work hard if we want to achieve. Is Benson that much better than us? Is Pipestone that much better than us? Those are tight games that went to the end. I think we can put it all together still, but I was hoping that these last couple of games were the ones that we could make that switch."
BENSON 24 24 - 58
MINNEWASKA 26 27 - 53
MINNEWASKA- Peyton Johnsrud 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal; Mitchell Gruber 2 points, 1 rebound; Sam Hested 4 points, 4 rebounds; Damon Uhde 2 points, 2 assists, 2 steals; Aaron Ver Steeg 17 points 8 rebounds; Hunter Kostelecky 2 points, 2 rebounds; Brady Hoffman 19 points, 2 blocks, 4 rebounds