In these dog days of high school basketball’s regular season, Andale junior Hunter Knoblauch hasn’t been pleased with his shooting.
“I’ve been struggling lately,” said Knoblauch, the Indians’ 6-foot guard. “Coach has said if we want to make a deep run, we need to get to shooting better. We’ve been staying after practice a lot lately.”
With possession of their league lead at stake Friday, Knoblauch and the Indians seemed like they couldn’t miss.
Knoblauch scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting and made five of Andale’s 11 three-pointers, leading the Indians to a 65-55 victory over Augusta at Hutter Gymnasium.
Sophomore center Jeffrey Ast added 14 points and sophomore guard Clint Walstad had 12 for Andale (15-2, 7-0 AV-CTL IV), which increased its lead over second-place Augusta (12-5, 5-2) to two games with three to play.
Andale, which defeated Augusta 53-28 in the teams’ first meeting in December, overcame a tougher challenge from the Orioles by shooting 66 percent from the field (25 of 38) and making 11 of 15 three-pointers.
“I think they save all their threes just for us,” said Augusta coach David Stephenson, whose team matched Andale’s 11 threes but had six fewer two-pointers. “”With them, you pick your poison. We picked it and they hit their threes.”
Knoblauch made all five threes he attempted, and Andale used them as fuel for strong starts to both halves. Andale built a 25-13 early in the second quarter before Augusta, which got 15 points from senior Sean Brandenburg, rallied to tie the score at 31 at halftime.
“We know him,” Brandenburg said of Knoblauch. “He was on our scouting report. He’s just hard to stop.”
Knoblauch hit a three-pointer on Andale’s first possession of the third quarter to give the Indians the lead for good at 34-31. Walstad, Jason Hermreck and reserve Jordan Anderson added threes in the third quarter as Andale pushed its lead to 48-39.
The Indians limited Augusta to 3-of-10 shooting in the third quarter to build their lead.
“We told our kids that they have good shooters and they’re going to make some contested shots,” Andale coach Jeff Buchanan said. “We just couldn’t give them uncontested shots, and they got some on us in the second quarter.”
Andale, No. 2 in the Class 4A Division 2 coaches’ rankings, made 13 of 19 shots in the second half and led by as many as 14 points. Knoblauch’s bid for a perfect shooting night ended when he missed a bank shot in the lane in the fourth quarter. He also missed both of his free-throw attempts, but did plenty to keep the Orioles from pulling even in the league race.
“Hunter had 23 and he had a great game,” Buchanan said. “But what I loved is that all eight guys who got on the court for us had a big impact on the game.
“It’s a big game when the other team is playing as well as they were. You don’t really need to say much to your kids. They understand what’s on the table.”
ANDALE: Knoblauch 23, Macari 2, Walstad 12, Hermreck 9, Ast 14, Anderson 3, Bruna 2.
AUGUSTA: Steinkamp 13, Finch 7, Hurst 8, Brandenburg 15, Smith 6, McEachern 3, Carter 3.