ANDALE – The facts were this was the third game of the season for the Andale boys basketball team, and it was going against a team coached by someone who was raised in the same household as Andale coach Jeff Buchanan.
These facts did not make Tuesday’s home game against Wellington a favorable opportunity for Andale to display why it is the No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A-Division II’s coaches rankings.
Instead, Andale showed its survival skills in batting away a prolonged upset bid from Wellington in a 52-44 victory to improve to 3-0 this season. It was the first loss for Wellington (3-1), which was coming off winning the Kingman tournament last week.
“We’ve got a lot to learn from a game like this,” Buchanan said. “The main one is that even when things aren’t going well for us, we still won. That’s the big one. But when we look back on this one, we’re going to see some things that show up that we need to improve.”
Regardless of talent and record, Wellington has always given Andale a difficult game under coach Brian Buchanan, Jeff’s brother. The Crusaders nearly engineered an early-season upset with an impressive defensive effort, spearheaded by a team dedicated to rebounding.
Andale entered with a sizable advantage inside with Lane Macari, at 6-foot-5, and Jeff Ast, at 6-6, presenting a mismatch. Wellington could counter with Trevor Nance (6-5), but the other post would either have an undersized guard or a freshman on them.
Wellington not only negated this, but wound up winning the rebounding battle by corralling nine offensive rebounds and 22 of the 29 possible defensive rebounds.
“You could see why they won the Kingman tournament,” Andale’s Jeff Buchanan said. “They played crisp, they played together, they were sharp. They didn’t do anything fancy, but it was the little, tough, gutsy things that made them a good team tonight.”
Elevating the Crusaders even higher was the outstanding play of Nance, who contained Ast on the defensive end and then recorded game-highs in points (16), rebounds (11), steals (3), and blocks (3).
“Trevor is just a good all-around kid,” Wellington’s Brian Buchanan said. “Everybody sees him on game nights, but he does that every day in practice. When the ball is in his hands, something good is going to happen.”
But Wellington couldn’t squeeze enough offense elsewhere to seriously challenge Andale, as the rest of the team shot 35 percent.
Wellington cut Andale’s lead to 42-39 with 4:47 remaining in the game, but proceeded to miss seven straight free throws and come up empty on its next six possessions as Andale jetted ahead with a 10-0 run.
“It just felt like we weren’t together as a team,” Andale senior Hunter Knoblauch said. “We didn’t seem like ourselves. We weren’t in sync and playing together, which isn’t usually how Andale basketball is.”
No player scored over 10 points for Andale, as Ast (10), Clint Walstad (8), Jason Hermreck (8), Hunter Knoblauch (8), Bo Knoblauch (8), Jason Anderson (6), and Lane Macari (4) all chipped in.
“Obviously the game plan was not exactly produced how we planned it,” Andale’s Jeff Buchanan said. “But in the end, it’s a win, so you can’t complain.”