SERENA — Serena basketball coach Dain Twait wasn't all too happy with his team's start against Woodland, but he was more than pleased on how the Huskers finished against the Warriors on Tuesday night.
Bolstered by a game-high 14 points from junior Tony Pusateri and 12 from senior Jakob Setchell (after a two-game absence due to injury), the Huskers saw that pair account for better than half of their team's points, including a dozen apiece in the final two quarters, to turn a 18-15 deficit at halftime into a 51-42 victory here on Serena's Al Stegman Court.
The Huskers (3-4) couldn't buy a point in the opening minutes of the first period before finally denting the scoreboard after almost six minutes had passed. However, from there, the hosts started to gain some traction and slowly but surely pulled away from a very tough Woodland contingent.
"We came out kind of flat for sure and I've got to credit Woodland because they were ready from the get go," Twait said. "To score just 15 points in the first half for us is disappointing and I have no words for it. I was pretty aggressive at halftime in speaking with the guys and I'm glad they took it as a challenge and responded in the second half. We clamped down defensively and offensively both Tony and Jakob both wanted the ball and that was great to see, with each of them really taking control of our scoring in the final two quarters."
Setchell, who was averaging better than 23 points per game before an ankle injury forced him to sit out the last two contests, also recorded six rebounds while senior Brennen Marker matched that as the Huskers outrebounded the Warriors 26-17 on the night. Additionally, senior Randy Schaefer chipped in with nine points.
In the hard-fought losing effort, Woodland (2-5) was paced by 10 points from junior Trevor Derossett, along with 10 tallies and a contest-best eight rebounds from senior Collin Hjerpe. Senior Tyler Jenkins chipped in with eight markers, but it wasn't quite enough to counter Serena's second-half surge sparked by Pusateri and Setchell.
"We knew Setchell might have been a step slow coming off his injury and I thought we did a great job defensively holding him scoreless in the first half and maintaining the lead at halftime," said WHS coach Connor Kaminke. "But he fought through it in the second half, got his points and so did the Pusateri kid who made some great shots. I think we kind of came out lackadaisical in the second half, made too many turnovers which turned into buckets for them. From there, we just couldn't quite recover."
Woodland wasn't the team needing to recover in the first quarter as it busted out to an 8-0 lead with just three minutes left. However, Serena bounced right back with eight consecutive points to tie the score, capped when junior Connor Baker drained a right-base-line 3-pointer with two seconds left.
Derossett owned the last four minutes of the second period, providing a nifty layup at 3:40, an old-fashioned 3-point play at 2:20 and a pair of free throws with 15 seconds to go to put his club up 18-15 at the half.
From there, Pusateri and Setchell took command. Setchell opened the second half with a deuce-and-one that tied the score at 18-18 and later added a right base-line 3-ball that put the Huskers up 23-20.
"I had to get the ankle warmed up in the first half when I was scared that I might hurt it more," said Setchell. "Even though I didn't have quite the speed that I normally have, I thought I was able to give us some good energy in the third quarter."
Pusateri took the baton after that, in the final three minutes of the third tallying eight points, including a left-baseline triple with 15 seconds to go to put the Huskers up 35-31.
"That was a good feeling hitting that three," Pusateri said. "From there we just needed to make our free throws."
Serena finished off the win by hitting 12-of-17 free throws down the stretch in the fourth quarter with Setchell and Pusateri connecting on 5-of-5 each to close out the victory in style.
At Stegman Court, Serena
Serena 51, Woodland 42
(Key: FG FT-FTA TP)
WOODLAND (42) – Derossett 3 4-6 10, Carby 1 2-4 4, Hjerpe 5 0-2 10, Simpson 0 0-0 0, Voytko 2 2-3 6, Jenkins 2 2-3 8, Ewing 1 1-2 4. Totals 14-35 11-20 42.
SERENA (51) – Rogers 0 3-4 3, McNelis 0 0-0 0, Marker 1 0-0 2, Baker 2 0-0 5, Arneson 0 0-0 0, Schaefer 2 4-6 9, Setchell 3 5-5 12, Kuhn 3 0-3 6, Pusateri 4 5-5 14, Posner 0 0-0 0, Stafford 0 0-0 0. Totals 15-35 17-23 51.
Woodland (2-5) 8 10 13 11 – 42
Serena (3-4) 8 7 20 16 – 51
3-point goals – Woodland 3-15 (Jenkins 2, Ewing); Serena 4-13 (Setchell, Pusateri, Baker, Schaefer). Rebounds – Woodland 17 (Hjerpe 8, Jenkins 6); Serena 26 (Setchell 6, Marker 6). Turnovers – Woodland 15; Serena 20. Total fouls (none fouled out) – Woodland 20; Serena 23.