The boys cage campaign began with this center jump between Spring Grove freshman Brady Schuttemeier (at right) and Mabel-Canton junior Hunter Johnson.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
The boys cage campaign began with this center jump between Spring Grove freshman Brady Schuttemeier (at right) and Mabel-Canton junior Hunter Johnson.

The Spring Grove boys basketball team was looking for leadership from their returning point guard along with some help from younger players this season. On Saturday they found both.

Senior Blaine Storlie scored 32 points and a pair of freshmen led the team with 6 and 7 rebounds as the Spring Grove boys downed Mabel-Canton 56-42 in the season opener.

Defense, fouls and free throws were critical in the Cougar match-up. Each team hit 19 field goals as the Lions outscored M-C by one point from the field and 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 their 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 8 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 steals.

Alex Engelhardt and Josh Olerud had four thefts each with three from Brady Schuttemeier. The Lions scored 12 fast-break points following steals.

The Lions hit 7 of their first 12 shots from the field including a pair of Storlie treys. On the night, the senior point guard went 4 for 7 from beyond the arc and 8 for 9 at the foul line.

The Cougars out-shot the Lions from the field 46% to 37%. 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 3-point range (Spring Grove 40%, M-C 60%) than they did from closer in (Spring Grove