By Trent Jerome, coach
KCC 87 – WEM 93
As the winter chill sets in, the heat of competition rises in high school basketball gyms across the state. The KCC boys basketball team embarked on their 2023-2024 season with two early challenging matchups, setting the stage for what promises to be an exciting season.
The season opener on Friday, Dec. 1 took the Bearcats to Win-E-Mac in Erskine, where they faced the Patriots, a team boasting one of the state’s leading scorers, Justin Courneya. The game’s beginning promised a fast-paced, high-scoring affair. The Bearcats’ strategy focused on leveraging the prowess of their junior big man, Ty Vig. Vig’s dominance in the paint was a key factor, especially against the relatively shorter Patriots squad.
He started the scoring off for the Bearcats. Win-E-Mac countered with sharp outside shooting, matching pace with the Bearcats through the beginning of the first half. However, KCC found an additional gear when freshman Kellen Johnson unleashed a barrage of threes, propelling the Bearcats to a first-half lead of 50-40 rolling into the half, despite Courneya’s 15 points.
The second half reignited the back-and-forth battle, with Vig continuing to score. However, a shift in momentum came as Courneya found his rhythm, troubling the Bearcats with his scoring versatility. Win-E-Mac also capitalized on some costly Bearcat turnovers for easy layups.
Despite the Bearcats’ efforts, including multiple threes from Brock Scalese and Vig’s paint presence, the Patriots maintained the lead by clutch free throws at the end. Win-E-Mac emerged victorious in a high-scoring duel, 93-87.
Scoring: Ty Vig 36 (24 Rebounds), Kellen Johnson 24, Brock Scalese 12, Brody Scalese 9, Eli Peterson 3, Jaydon Nordin 3.
KCC 59 – Freeze 72
The Bearcats returned home to Lancaster for their second game on Tuesday, Dec. 5, facing conference rivals the Northern Freeze. The packed gym buzzed with anticipation. The Bearcats initially surged ahead, thanks to Ty Vig’s three-point shooting. However, the Freeze kept pace with tough jumpers and eventually took the lead, exploiting Bearcats’ turnovers through full-court pressure. The Freeze also found success in the paint after drives and dump offs to cutting teammates.
The Bearcats effectively used Vig’s inside scoring to keep the game within reach. Both teams continued to fight in a back-and-forth battle until halftime.
Despite trailing 37-30 at halftime, the Bearcats narrowed the gap in the second half, feeding Vig inside. The Freeze responded with increased defensive pressure in the paint on Vig with double and even triple teams. This allowed them to widen their lead again. The lead was as big as 11 for the Freeze in the second half.
A late surge from the Bearcats, with threes from Vig, Johnson and Brody Scalese, brought the game within 4 points with 4 minutes remaining in the contest. However, down the stretch, a combination of rushed shots and fouling by KCC allowed the Freeze to extend their lead, sealing a 72-59 victory.
Scoring: Ty Vig 33, Kellen Johnson 14, Brody Scalese 10, Eli Peterson 2.
The Bearcats face a demanding week ahead. They challenged the reigning section champions, the Sacred Heart Eagles, at home in Hallock on Monday, Dec. 11. They confront the Double A Roseau Rams at home as well on Tuesday, Dec. 12, before heading to East Grand Forks to play the Double A Green Wave on Friday, Dec. 15. These upcoming games provide the Bearcats with opportunities to refine their strategies, particularly in managing turnovers and sustaining defensive intensity. The early season has already showcased their scoring abilities and determination with two close battles. The Bearcat boys basketball team appreciates all the community support and they hope to see you at games as the season continues.