The Mabel-Canton boys' basketball team opened play at home on Saturday, Dec. 1, by hosting their neighbors from Spring Grove. Coming off a second-straight SEC title, the visiting Lions got the win, 56-42.

Defense, fouls and free throws were critical in the matchup. Each team hit 19 field goals as Spring Grove outscored M-C by just one point from the field but 13 points from the foul line (14 for 21).

Although the Cougars defended half court while Spring Grove utilized a full-court press, M-C fouled more often - especially early. In the first half, M-C whistles sent the Lions to the foul line 15 times while two Cougar starters were sidelined, including a leading scorer.

With two fouls in the first two minutes, Justin Ward played only four of the 18 minutes immediately before halftime. The junior forward came back to lead M-C with 16 points, hitting eight of 12 shots from the field, but the Cougars could not catch up after falling behind 17-2. M-C was back to within nine points at halftime (31-22) but never got closer than six points during the second half.

Despite their customary full-court defensive pressure, Spring Grove was whistled for only 11 fouls while forcing 27 Cougar turnovers including 15 thefts. The Lions scored 12 fast-break points following steals.

The Cougars out-shot the Lions from the field 46 percent to 37 percent. But with seven fewer rebounds (30-23) and seven more turnovers (27-20), M-C attempted 14 fewer shots from the field and 15 fewer free throws. Remarkably, both teams shot better from three-point range (M-C 60 percent, Spring Grove 40 percent) than they did from closer in (M-C 44 percent, Spring Grove 36 percent). M-C was only one for six, (17 percent) from the free-throw line.

For the Lions, third-year starting guard Blaine Storlie scored a career-high 32 points. The senior leader hit four of seven from beyond the arc and eight of nine from the line.

Junior guard Noah Manning had eight rebounds and four assists, plus three points for M-C. Junior guard Hunter Johnson scored eight, while sophomore guard Keyser Wenthold added seven.

Mabel-Canton traveled to Lanesboro on Tuesday. On Friday, Dec. 7, the Cougars will host LeRoy-Ostrander. On Friday, Dec. 14, Glenville-Emmons comes to town.