Canby boys continue hot start, cruise past Wildcats

MARSHALL – Coming off a last-second win over sixth-ranked Dawson-Boyd, the Canby boys’ basketball team continued its turnaround season Saturday with a dominant 61-41 win over Southwest United at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University.

Just under halfway through the 2012-13 season, the Lancers are now 9-2 overall and just one victory away from matching last year’s win total.

Junior point guard Michael Slaba scored 23 points, grabbed six rebounds, doled out four assists and had four steals to lead the Lancers past the Wildcats (3-6). With the confidence gained from Thursday’s win over Dawson-Boyd, which came thanks to a 3-pointer by Nate Stafki at the buzzer, Slaba said the Lancers are looking forward to seeing just how far they can climb in the second half of the season.

“It’s been a long time since Canby has beat a real good team, and Dawson’s a real good team,” Slaba said. “In the locker room you could kind of see the butterflies before the game and we kind of came out a little tight, but as the second half grew we really started to believe we could beat this team.

“What it really means to us is that we’re not a pushover. We can beat the good teams and we want to contend to be the best.”

Slaba was one of four Lancers to reach double figures in scoring Saturday. That’s been a trend for Canby all season. The Lancers have four players – Slaba, center Michael Sisk, forward Cole Brusven and center Zach Nuy – who all average 10-12 points per game. That balance was key in the win over Dawson-Boyd, which had three players score all but six of its points Thursday.

“If you look at our scoring averages for the year they’re around nine, 11, 12, 10, and that’s why we’re a tough team to play because we have so many guys who can shoot the ball,” Canby head coach Jon Hanson said. “We have about seven guys who score every game.”

Stafki, Sisk and Nuy each scored 10 points in Saturday’s runaway win. The Lancers broke the came open thanks to their defense, growing a 23-17 lead near the end of the first half into a 42-17 lead within the first five minutes of the second half against the overmatched Wildcats.

Offensively, the Lancers used an inside-outside game and heady passing to create open opportunities for each other. Sisk and Nuy had their way down low, and Slaba, Stafki and Brusven were able take advantage of openings on the perimeter. They also did well getting to the foul line, where the Lancers converted on 22 of 27 attempts.

“We’ve really got all the pieces of the puzzle coming together,” Slaba said. “We have a good inside game with Sisk, Nuy, Kyle Devos and Kristian Leppke, and Brusven’s been hot lately, Nate’s been shooting well. We’ve been playing well as a team and it’s fun to play on a team like this.”

The Wildcats didn’t share the same balance. Senior guard Andrew Kramer scored 15 points and 6-foot-5 center Zach Shumacher added 11, but no other SWU player had more than five.

It has taken the Lancers time to develop their balance. Most of the players have been seeing varsity playing time since they were freshmen and sophomores. Now mostly juniors and seniors, the group has matured into a a squad that hopes to challenge for the Camden Conference title and more.

“We’ve been trying to get to that level for a couple of years now,” said Hanson, whose team travels to play Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Tuesday. “We were there for a while and just by numbers and stuff we’ve been down a bit. We had been beating the people that we should, but not competing with the upper tier teams. We’ve finally gotten up there to be reckoned with, so that’s kind of fun.”