The Aquinas High School boys basketball team needed a bit of a second-spark at the Reinhart Athletic Complex on Thursday, and Quinn Miskowski and Joe Savoldelli were more than happy to provide it.
The Blugolds didn't start their nonconference game against West Salem fast, but they put themselves in position to win with a big second-half run that led to a 64-52 victory.
Miskowski, a junior, made five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 27 points, and Savoldelli, a senior, helped right is team's defense in the paint and added 15 points as Aquinas (5-1) won its fourth game in a row.
"We had to play better defense in the second half, and we did," said Miskowski, who scored 15 points in the first half and 12 in the second. "We shuffled our feet and didn't just defend with our hands, and I think that was the difference."
So was a dominant run through the middle of the second half that turned a 41-41 tie into a 58-46 lead. Miskowski scored eight points and made two of his 3-pointers during that stretch, capping it by following a steal with a layup.
The Panthers (1-1) scored at will early by pounding the ball into junior CJ McConkey, but those opportunities dwindled as the game progressed.
"Joe was huge, especially on the defensive end because he was one of the switches we made," Aquinas coach Brad Reinhart said. "I think he did a great job on McConkey down and around the lane.
"He was also aggressive on the offensive side and looking for chances. He did a nice job of scoring around the rim for us."
McConkey scored 18 points for West Salem, but he had 11 of them in the first 7 minutes, 27 seconds. He was strong in the post and either found ways to get the ball in the basket or got fouled trying.
His start helped the Panthers to a 10-1 lead before Miskowski started to find perimeter shots. Aquinas whittled away at its deficit, and the game remained close until junior Will Skemp converted a baseline drive to snap the 41-41 tie.
Miskowski followed it with a 3-pointer off a pass from Jackson Flottmeyer, and Savoldelli scored twice in the lane. Another Miskowski 3 gave the Blugolds a 52-43 lead, and junior Chris Wilson pushed the advantage into double figures for the first time on his own drive to the basket with 7:26 left.
Miskowski, who averages a team-high 19.3 points per game, was instrumental at pushing the pace and taking advantage of spacing on the floor and ball movement to position himself for open shots. He also looked for the shots.
"Quinn was good energy on both ends of the floor, and he went into attack mode a little more than he usually does," Reinhart said. "He picked his spots really well and didn't force the issue.
"He let it come to him, but if there was an opportunity there, he went after it."
Both Reinhart and Miskowski said defense has been key during the winning streak, which the Blugolds take to Tomah (8-2) for an MVC game on Friday. The way it improved in the second half was instrumental against the Panthers.
"This is certainly one that we should feel good about," Reinhart said. "(Wins) are all nice to get, but West Salem is going to win a lot of games this year."
Sports editor Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX