LA CROSSE — The La Crescent High School boys basketball team dug deep and pulled itself out of a 17-point hole, but West Salem’s Malachi Athnos spoiled the ending Saturday morning at the La Crosse Center.
The Lancers forced overtime when junior Thomas Kiesau nailed a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left, but the Panthers got the ball to Athnos after a timeout, and he connected on a shot at the buzzer for a 60-57 win at the Coulee Classic.
La Crescent made three 3-pointers in the final minute before Athnos hit the winning shot on a leaning 3-pointer while sliding between two defenders.
“We didn’t want the ball in (Athnos’) hands, but he got it and hit a great shot,” Kiesau said. “Give him credit.”
West Salem’s lead was 48-31 at one point and 50-35 before Ben Nelson connected for a La Crescent 3-pointer with 8 minutes, 18 seconds remaining
West Salem (7-9) missed its next five shots as the Lancers clawed their way back into the game. Zach Todd, Romy Whitford, Kiesau and Luke Schwartzhoff all scored during the comeback.
Kiesau took two charges, had four rebounds and assisted on a basket by Todd to keep things flowing for La Crescent, which had a three-game winning streak ended.
“He is the heart and soul of this team,” La Crescent coach Ryan Thibodeau said of Kiesau, who scored eight points. “What we saw from him today — the hustle and all of that — is what we see every day from him.
“He’s a guy I have to sub for quite a bit because he gets so gassed by putting everything he has into what he’s doing.”
Kiesau converted a pass from Todd into a basket that cut West Salem’s lead to 50-48 with 3:22 left before the Panthers ended the run on a free throw by Athnos
West Salem built the lead to 55-48 before a Nelson 3-pointer got La Crescent within 55-51 with 48.2 seconds left. The Panthers missed four free throws in the final minute to help La Crescent stay alive.
The Lancers took possession for the final time after a West Salem free throw with 16 seconds to go. Kiesau took a pass from Nelson and made a shot from the left side to tie the game.
“We felt pretty good,” Kiesau said. “We knew we had to defend one more time, though.”
Thibodeau said there was a defensive miscommunication that allowed the ball to get to Athnos, who scored a game-high 23 points.
“We knew where they wanted to go with the ball, but we had a little breakdown and didn’t bracket him the way we wanted to,” Thibodeau said. “He made a good play once he got the ball.”
Schwartzhoff, who hit a long 3-pointer with 36 seconds left, and Nelson led the Lancers with 14 points. Todd added 10.
“After playing the night before and being down 17, we could have folded,” Thibodeau said. “That’s what I told (the team) after the game. They didn’t and it took a great play to beat us.”
LA CRESCENT 68, LEWISTON-ALTURA 54: The Lancers set up Saturday’s game against the Panthers with a victory over the Cardinals on Jan. 26.
Zach Todd scored a team-high 19 points, and La Crescent outscored Lewiston-Altura by 10 points in the second half. Ben Nelson had 15, Lucas Schwartzhoff 12 and Romy Whitford 11 as the Lancers won their third game in a row before losing to the Panthers.
CALEDONIA 89, LA CRESCENT 67: The Warriors built a 45-32 lead by the end of the first half and played without leading scorer Owen King due to a broken nose on Jan. 30.
The Lancers (10-7)were led by Luke Schwartzhoff’s 14 points. Zach Todd added 12 and Ben Nelson 11.
Caledonia was led by sophomore Noah King’s 25 points and Sam Barthel’s 17. Caledonia made six 3-pointers, and Barthel hit three of them.
Nelson had eight of his points in the second half and made La Crescent’s only two 3-pointers.