The Bluejay boys jumped solidly into a new season at Eau Claire North last Tuesday, but the hot-handed Huskies spoiled their victory chances with unconscious long-range accuracy.
North drilled 8-of-12 three-pointers while taking a 32-14 halftime lead, and ended up securing a 73-60 victory.
“If you look at the stat line, Merrill won that game,” MHS coach Kurt Soderberg said. “But eight threes in the first half, we couldn’t account for that. Talking to their coach after the game he said he was as surprised as anybody they did that. But it was their second game and at home and that helps you do some of those kinds of things.
“I wasn’t displeased at all. With six minutes to go it was a 10-point game. We had back-to-back issues that put it right back up to 14, but you spend a lot of energy to get back into a game like that.
“I never thought the kids stopped playing hard. I’m looking for marked improvement in the next game. We’ve got a good squad of committed kids. We’re going to be fine. I thought we did a lot of things really well. We’ve changed our style a lot. We’re trying to use our strong guard play and the skills David Jesperson has.”
Jesperson paced the Jays with 17 points-making 8-of-10 free throws-13 rebounds and 3 steals. Paul Theorin scored 15 and dished 4 assists, and Michael Seaman also hit double figures with 10.
While Eau Claire was going off, the MHS boys struggled with 27% shooting in the first half.
For the game, North shot 63% to 35% for Merrill. But that margin was partly offset by the Jays taking 19 more shot attempts at 57.
North cooled down from distance in the second half, hitting just 1-of-4 treys, but the nearly kept pace with Merrill by canning 11-of-16 short-range shots.
“Certainly (North) played well,” Soderberg said. “They had a tough year last year, but they returned everybody and are much improved. But it’s not a team I would be worried to play again.
“The other part of it when you’re playing from behind you’re forced to do some things with pressing. Sure we got some turnovers, but we also gave up some lay-ups.
“We wanted to win it, but at the same time we got a good look at things we can improve. If we continue to make the same mistakes, my tune will change quickly.”
Chaz Mootz had 6 points and 3 steals, Brandon Bartz scored 4, and Andrew Seaman and Nick Mootz both tacked on 3.
Merrill-FG: 20-57 (35%); FT: 12-16 (75%). ECN-FG: 24-38 (63%); FT: 16-25 (64%).