MENDOTA — Entering Saturday’s contest, both the Mendota and La Salle-Peru boys basketball teams were coming off of tough conference loses on Friday.
The Trojans lost to Princeton in a Three Rivers Conference East Division rout and La Salle-Peru fell to Ottawa in the same fashion in an Interstate 8 Conference matchup.
Mendota was hoping to get back to winning ways in a non-conference game at home on Saturday, Jan. 7, but La Salle-Peru was able to outlast the Trojans’ fourth-quarter rally as MHS fell 56-46.
“I thought our guys did a really good job of responding, especially after (Friday) against Princeton where it was bad and then got worse. I was proud of how they bounced back from the Princeton game,” Mendota coach Steve Wasmer said. “We made a couple of shots against the Cavaliers to make a run, which helps. I told the guys in the locker room, ‘I thought we executed really well, but sometimes the shots don’t fall.’ I think it was that way against L-P at the end. I was happy with the way we took care of the basketball.
“We really held (L-P junior forward) Josh Senica off of the glass, which is tough because he is a grown man. I thought we did a really good job of executing our game plan. At the end, we just needed to make some shots. We struggled to do so, but I’m proud of their effort.”
After holding a 15-11 lead after the first, Mendota trailed L-P 26-23 at halftime and 43-37 after three quarters.
The Trojans (7-12) found themselves trailing L-P (12-8) by 12 points in the fourth quarter until a surge brought them back in the game.
Senior guard Isaac Guzman hit two 3-point baskets in back-to-back Mendota possessions and junior guard Cale Strouss hit a 3 with 2:31 left in the game to cut L-P’s lead to 47-46.
Cavalier senior London Cabrera hit a 3 to give L-P a 50-46 lead and Senica hit a 3 of his own before the Cavs iced the game at the free throw line.
“Seriously, as a coach, all you can ask for is for your team to battle. We didn’t quit. Senica made a couple of 3s. When he is making 3s, he is incredibly hard to guard,” Wasmer said. “Our game plan coming into the game was to really pack it in. When we were down 50-46, we had a couple of layups that we missed. Senica came down and hit a 3, and that was the dagger with 1:50 left in the game. That hurt but we kept battling.”
“What really hurt us or surprised us was Seth Adams hitting four 3s in the first half. As a coach it’s probably my fault. At halftime, I saw that he had 14 points. He’s the one who really killed us. We were trying to pack it in on Josh, but they were doing a really good job of finding Adams after he made a couple.
“I didn’t adjust to it soon enough.”
Guzman and Strouss drained three 3s apiece as both guards finished with 11 points. Seniors Rafa Romero and Ryne Strouss both finished with eight points.
L-P was led by Adams as the junior guard finished with five 3s for 23 points, while Senica made two 3s to finish with 18 points.
“I thought we got hungry in the last few minutes of the game and we turned it up a level. It’s really hard to play back-to-back nights after a tough conference loss at home Friday to Ottawa. I’m proud of how our guys responded against Mendota. There were a lot of peaks and valleys in this game,” said Cavalier coach Jim Cherveny, who led his team to a win over the Trojans at the Colmone Classic at Hall High School. “We controlled our emotions and our reactions and played through it. I thought we were really mentally tough. I really like how Mendota plays basketball. “Coach Was” is doing a phenomenal job with his group. It’s one of the better Trojan teams I’ve seen in several years.
“They have a very bright future as long as the players keep buying into what he’s teaching.
“We knew they were going to be hungry and we had to be hungrier.”
In the sophomore game played before the varsity contest, Mendota fell to L-P 66-61.
Cameron Kelly led the team with 17 points, while Braiden Freeman finished with 16 points.
Princeton on Friday
On Friday, the Trojans lost to Princeton 74-29.
Junior Izaiah Nanez led the Trojans with eight points.
Princeton had three players in double figures as Grady Thompson finished with 19, Teegan Davis added 14, and Kolter Monroe had 13.
In the junior varsity game, Mendota lost 55-45.
Aydn Tillman was the Trojans high scorer with 17 points, while Kelly had 10 and Freeman finished with nine.
Jordan Reinhardt scored 34 points for the Tigers.