Boys basketball: Serena tops Earlville 47-44 in battle of LTC unbeaten squads

Early fourth quarter spurt helps Huskers stay undefeated in league play, gives Red Raiders first loop loss

Serena's Hunter Staton eyes the hoop as Earlville's Adam Waite defends on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 at Earlville High School.

EARLVILLE – Coming off a tough double overtime loss to Marquette Academy on Tuesday, the Serena boys basketball team found themselves in another dogfight in Friday’s Little Ten Conference game at Earlville.

Both teams entered the contest unbeaten in regular-season conference play, but the Huskers rolled to a decisive win in last week’s LTC Tournament championship game.

After a back-and-forth opening half, Earlville grabbed the momentum in the final minutes of the third quarter, but Serena used a 14-4 burst to start the fourth and eventually posted a 47-44 win.

The Huskers improved to 26-2 overall and 8-0 in LTC action, while the Red Raiders fell to 24-3 and 8-1.

“We weren’t happy with the outcome against Marquette [on Tuesday], so we really wanted to come out tonight and get that bad taste out of our mouths,” said Serena senior forward Hunter Staton, who netted a team-high 14 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. “We knew and talked about how tonight was going to be a much different game than last week and with them on their home floor they were going to be ready to go. It was a struggle at times tonight in doing all those things well, but we were able to do enough good things to get the win.”

After a 20-all deadlock at the intermission, the hosts used a 13-5 run to close out the third quarter, including a pair of triples from Ryan Browder, a drive by Griffin Cook, and a free throw-line jumper and half-court shot at the buzzer by Trenton Fruit to hold a 38-32 advantage.

“Shooting is mainly confidence and even though I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I would have liked the whole game, I just knew that one toward the start of the fourth quarter was going in.”

—  Hunter Staton, Serena senior forward

“Last Friday we didn’t get back on defense nearly as fast as we should have and that one thing, we wanted to make sure we did tonight. Serena wants to get it and go, but if you let them do that, they are going to really hurt you. I thought we did an excellent job handling the pressure tonight,” Earlville coach Gerald Fruit said. “To be honest, like in the first game, I thought we did OK against their 1-2-2 press, but tonight we did a much better job of breaking the pressure, and then setting up and getting into our offense.

Serena responded with Tanner Faivre and Staton swishing 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the fourth, followed by a layup by Richie Armour and a floater by Carson Baker to grab back the lead at 42-40 with 3 minutes, 40 seconds to play.

“Sometimes we get in our own heads and make things more difficult than they need to be,” Staton said. “Coach [Dain] Twait does a good job of getting us back on track and keeping our confidence up. Shooting is mainly confidence and even though I didn’t shoot the ball as well as I would have liked the whole game, I just knew that one toward the start of the fourth quarter was going in.”

Over the next two minutes, Faivre traded four throws with a pair of rebound baskets by Browder to make it 46-44 with five seconds left. Armour sank one of two from the line, with Earlville grabbing the miss and calling time out.

On the inbounds, Cook was fouled shooting a 3 at the buzzer, but unfortunately for Earlville, he missed all three free throws to end the game.

“It didn’t come down to those last free throws.” coach Fruit said. “We had a number of chances before that to have not put ourselves in that tight spot at the end.”

Faivre (five rebounds, five assists) and Armour (game-high 11 rebounds) both finished with 13 points, with Baker adding seven points.

Browder ended with a game-best 18 points and eight rebounds, Cook with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals, and Trenton Fruit and Adam Waite (10 rebounds) with seven and six points respectively.

Serena closes out conference play at Hinckley-Big Rock on Monday and Indian Creek on Tuesday. Those same nights Earlville hosts Woodland and then travels to Kirkland to play Hiawatha in their final LTC contest.

BOXSCORE

At Earlville

Serena 47, Earlville 44

SERENA (47) — Baker 2-7 2-2 7, Raikes 0-3 0-0 0, Faivre 3-8 4-4 13, Armour 5-12 3-6 13, Staton 5-16 2-4 14, Farrell 0-0 0-0 0, Twait 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-46 (33%) 11-16 47.

EARLVILLE (44) — E. Fruit 0-0 0-0 0, Waite 2-4 2-4 6, T. Fruit 3-10 0-0 7, Cook 5-14 1-5 11, Browder 7-17 1-1 18, Munoz 0-3 0-0 0, Gonzalez 1-2 0-2 2, Brandt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-50 (36%) 4-12 44.

Serena (26-2, 8-0) 9 11 12 15 — 47

Earlville (24-3, 8-1) 12 8 18 6 — 44

3-point goals — Serena 6-19 (Baker 1-3, Raikes 0-3, Faivre 3-6, Staton 2-7); Earlville 4-14 (Waite 0-1, T. Fruit 1-4, Cook 0-1, Browder 3-7, Munoz 0-1). Rebounds — Serena 31 (Armour 11, Raikes 6); Earlville 35 (Waite 10, Browder 8, Cook 6). Assists — Serena 9 (Faivre 5); Earlville 8 (Cook 4). Steals — Serena 7 (Faivre 2, Armour 2, Staton 2); Earlville 8 (Cook 4, T. Fruit 2). Blocks — Serena 7 (Raikes 2, Armour 2, Staton 2); Earlville 1 (Waite 1). Turnovers — Serena 15, Earlville 18. Total fouls (none fouled out) — Serena 10, Earlville 16.

Earlville's Ryan Browder eyes the hoop as he is met in the lane by Serena's Hunter Staton on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 at Earlville High School.