GRUNDY CENTER - With winless Grundy Center in front after three quarters, AGWSR coach Russ Banzhaf challenged Josh Bagley to lead his Cougars to victory.
Scoring the first nine points of the final frame, Bagley did just that, finishing with a game-high 20 points in a 44-43 win over the Spartans here Friday night.
"I challenged him during a timeout in the fourth quarter and told him that it was time for him to step up and lead us to the win," Banzhaf said. "He hit some big shots for us."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
AGWSR’s Josh Bagley, center, scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points as the Cougars rallied to beat Dylan Lyman (32) and host Grundy Center, 44-43, on Friday night in NICL West Division play.
In a game that featured a few twists and turns in both directions, the Cougars lost a big early lead and scored just two points in the third quarter but still managed to pull through and avoid the upset.
"We got off to good start, but credit Grundy Center for not quitting," Banzhaf said. "We lost the lead because we settled for too many long shots and we were just shooting the ball too quick."
The Cougars, who improved to 4-1 in North Iowa Cedar League action, led 17-7 after one quarter because they broke the Spartans' press and connected on three 3-pointers.
"They broke our press and hit some big shots, so you have to give them credit for that," Grundy Center coach Rollie Ackerman said. "We were able to come back because we executed our offense better in the second quarter and started taking smarter shots."
The Spartans trailed by as many 13 in the second quarter before using the deep ball from Elliott Eggleston and strong play inside from Dylan Lyman to rally.
Eggleston's first of five triples in the game started a 14-7 run that allowed Grundy Center to close to within three at the break. The final spurt of the half was a 12-4 advantage that included back-to-back buckets by Riley Wells and four free throws from Lyman.
"We depended too much on the outside shot and they were able to take advantage of us not being smart," Banzhaf said.
The Cougars continued to spiral downward in the third quarter as they tallied just a single bucket by Bagley in the frame and trailed by five heading into the fourth quarter. Grundy Center took the lead following consecutive treys by Eggleston just before the period ended.
"We just weren't in very good sync all night," Banzhaf said.
Bagley found his rhythm in the final frame and did not wait to get his team back in front. Back-to-back drives to the basket and then a baseline jumper gave AGWSR the lead and a 3-point play on the next possession by Bagley extended the lead to four.
"We let him pentrate to the basket in that final quarter," Ackerman said of Bagley. "We had to keep him out of the lane if we wanted to be successful. He hit some tough floaters though. He's an all-conference player for a reason."
It remained a close game the rest of the way but Bagley put the victory way for the Cougars with two freebies with 1:08 to play.
Eggleston canned another triple with 5 seconds to play to cut the Spartan deficit to just one but could not call timeout fast enough to keep the Cougars from running out the clock.
It was the third straight win for the Cougars (5-1). After Bagley's 20 points, Evan Janssen tallied 10 points, while Braden Bonewitz connected on two 3-pointers and scored eight points.
Eggleston's 15 points lead the Spartans, while Lyman added 12 points and seven boards. Brady Hook also had seven rebounds for Grundy Center, which is now 0-7 on the season.