Last season the Milaca Wolves lost by 38 points to the Granite Ridge Conference champions, Albany, but on Thursday the result was very different.
“Oh my goodness, it’s crazy, it’s incredible,” said Milaca guard Matthew Fransen.
Fransen poured in 27 points, leading Milaca to a 78-57 wire-to-wire win over the Huskies.
The senior was hot from the beginning, scoring 17 first-half points, including three buckets from beyond the arc. His hot shooting, coupled with a plethora of fast break layups off turnovers, gave the Wolves a 37-31 lead into the break.
“I think we surprised them a little bit. I don’t think they expected us to play with the kind of [defensive] pressure that we had.” Milaca coach Doug Reetz said.
The pressure intensified in the second half as Sam Berg and Peyton Rothanburg sniffed out passes at any even higher rate.
“It’s kind of like a bird dog. You get your first pheasant and then you go after it… and they really went after it.” Reetz said.
The Huskies, who lost 12 seniors from last year’s team that went 13-1 in conference play, were completely outsized on the boards as well. Their current team has just two players over six feet tall. Comparatively eight of the Wolves nine rotation players are at least 6’0”, helping them corral rebounds and easily paw into passing lanes.
Fransen says size, depth and experience that they didn’t have last season will make them much tougher.
“We were a completely different team last year, a lot of young guys, no experience, but everyone now is another year older,” he said. “It’s nice to be the veterans around the conference for once.”
And they’ve got their first taste of the traveling trophy, signifying conference leader, and don’t plan to let go soon.
It will be back on the line next Tuesday, Dec. 13 against Becker.