Freeburg forced 20 turnovers and spread the wealth on offense Friday.
Sophomore Luke Ervie scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter and junior Connor Diecker dropped in 12 points as the Midgets defeated Red Bud 53-38.
It was the third win in four games for Freeburg (4-5), which busted open the contest in the second quarter by outscoring the Musketeers (7-4) 19-6.
“We knew we had to get some pressure on (Griffin) Ziebold and (Alex) Birchler early. Those two guys are both averaging 12 (points) for them and are pretty good ballplayers,” Midgets coach Matt Laur said. “They’re both really good football guys that kind of have that tough mentality that sometimes we struggle with a little bit.”
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Birchler, a 6-foot-5 forward, started but came out of the game early in the first quarter when he couldn’t play with the mask designed to protect his broken nose. Birchler, who didn’t score, suffered the injury in practice Wednesday.
“That hurt us,” Musketeers coach CJ Cruser said of Birchler’s absence. “We thought we were going to have him. He went out and got that mask today and he couldn’t see anything with it, so he took it off. I said, ‘I can’t let you play with it off.’ So he had to sit the bench.”
Without Birchler, Red Bud had to rely heavily on Ziebold, who scored 14 points but none in the fourth quarter. Senior Blake Cowell had eight points and senior Caleb Riechmann had six.
“Nobody really wanted the ball when push came to shove,” Cruser said. “The anxiety grew as (Freeburg) turned the heat up on us. We just weren’t good enough. (But) we will get there. I’ve said from day one that we’ll be a much better team in February.”
Red Bud led 12-11 after one quarter, but Diecker scored nine second-quarter points, including two 3-pointers, to spark the Midgets to a 30-18 halftime lead. Ziebold banked in a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to trim Freeburg’s lead to 38-29, but Red Bud could get no closer.
Ervie was responsible in large part for that. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots, then made three of his next four, with one of them being a 3-pointer. He also was 5 of 5 from the free-throw line.
“I started off slow, but just kept shooting and figured it out,” said the 6-1 Ervie, who is averaging 15.9 points. “I started hitting shots. I was just playing with energy. I started getting after it on defense and that led to offense. This gives us confidence as a team. We know we can beat (other) teams. We’re improving every day.”
Freeburg will be back in action Wednesday in the Columbia-Freeburg Tournament, being held this year in Columbia. The Midgets will play Dupo at 1 p.m. and Columbia at 5:30 p.m.
“We’re a team that, on the right night, can beat anybody,” Laur said. “I love this group of guys. They work extremely hard and they’re very coachable. They’re a lot of fun to be around.”