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Nothern Valley boys enjoying improvement

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

LOGAN -- The Almena-Northern Valley's boys' basketball team is not the ballclub it used to be.

At 4-3, the Huskies are a winning team. It's early, but it's still a drastic improvement from last year's 5-17 season.

Northern Valley head coach Chuck Fessenden attributed his team's early success to its athleticism.

"We don't have as much size as we did last year, but we are more athletic and we've got kids that can shoot the ball better," Fessenden said.

Their speed was evident Friday against Logan (1-7) when the Huskies raced up and down the court for big leads in the first and third quarters and an eventual 60-40 victory at Logan.

The Huskies had three players score in double figures.

Sophomore guard Matt Stutsman posted a team-high 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting and 3-of-9 3-point shooting.

It was an impressive performance, considering he was just 3 of 17 from beyond the arc heading into the contest.

"He hadn't shot the ball real well this year, but we had done a lot of shooting over the break here," Fessenden said. "... Once he kind of gets going, he is going to hit some shots then, I think."

Juniors Hunter Chandler and Jordan Baird added 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Huskies.

Northern Valley had only one bad quarter Friday, and it came when Logan switched from its man defense to zone in the second quarter.

"We wanted to slow them down, and I wasn't as deep tonight as I wanted so I wanted to keep our legs (fresh) a little bit," said Logan head coach Paul Prewo. "We also wanted to see if they had much for outside shooting."

Fessenden said the switch threw off his players.

"We weren't getting the ball inside to the high post," he said. "We weren't throwing the ball inside at all. We were shooting it from the outside and making turnovers."

With the game tied 27-27 at halftime, Northern Valley adjusted.

Fessenden said he cleared up the confusion and told the players what they were supposed to do against the zone.

It worked.

After committing 15 turnovers in the first half, Northern Valley had just seven in the second half -- three of which came with the Huskies' reserves in.

"We shut down our turnovers and got the ball inside against the zone and was able to kick it out and stuff," Fessenden said. "We were able to do a lot better job then."

Northern Valley jumped out to a 48-38 lead at the end of the third quarter, and then the Huskies blew the lead open even wider as Logan went cold in the fourth quarter.

Logan made just 1 of 16 shots and missed two free throws in the final period.

"It was a tale of two halves," Prewo said. "We ran our offense and did everything right in the first half. Then we got away from it in the second half and made a lot of stupid turnovers and got away from our offense.

"They hit some key shots, we missed some key shots, they got on a bit of a roll and it was a hard hill to come back up," Prewo added.

Logan's depth was extremely limited Friday. The Trojans used a seven-man rotation, and several Trojans played with illness.

Then when they got in foul trouble late, the game got even more difficult for Logan.

However, three Trojans scored in double figures.

Freshman forward Regan Kats led the squad with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and he also had a team-high 12 rebounds.

"It's nice to have some height that early," Prewo said regarding his budding player. "Hopefully, we can mold him by the time he gets a little older."

Seniors Lane Archer and Albert Tello added 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Prewo said the Trojans are working toward creating a winning culture in Logan.

"We did some good things, but we are young," Prewo said. "Some of my boys don't know how to win. They went through junior high and hadn't won. This freshman class is the first junior high class to have a winning record in five or six years. That's big."