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The Chadron Cardinals’ boys’ basketball team began the new year strong, jumping out to an early lead and never looking back in their 62-48 defeat of Mitchell, Saturday, at the Birdcage, in Chadron.

Strong defensive play helped the Cardinals hold the Tigers to just a single field goal and one free throw in the first quarter, while the offense built a 12-3 lead the team would never surrender.

Mitchell’s scoring would improve slightly in the second quarter, but by half the Cardinals enjoyed a 28-10 lead.

“(Mitchell) has a couple of shooters in Austin Thyne and Keaton Reichert,” Chadron Head Coach Mitch Barry says. “We knew we had to shut those two down to have any success and defensively we did a great job on them.

“To hold Mitchell to 10 points at halftime – that’s doing great defensively.”

Barry says the defensive performance is at least partially due to work the team put in this past week on rebounding.

“All week we really worked on rebounding,” Barry says. “Coming off the holiday tournament we gave up 36 offensive rebounds, so that was our big emphasis this week. We boxed out all week during practice and I thought we got a lot better toward the end of the week.”

Saturday, the Cards were behind 19-15 in offensive rebounds, but the team out-rebounded the Tigers 30-14 defensively.

“We gave up some offensive boards, but we did a lot better job on the defensive boards,” Barry says.

Although Chadron’s lead was never in much danger, Mitchell’s offense was able to take advantage of a Cardinal group who Barry says came out sluggish in the second half. Mitchell’s Reichert scored eight of his eventual game-leading 17 points in the third, helping the Tiger’s outscore the Cardinals 18-11.

Barry says he’s unsure if the sluggishness was due to his group’s comfortable lead, or if the team just got lazy, but as the fourth quarter got underway, the Cardinals wrestled back momentum from the Tigers with the help of strong play from seniors Colton Olson and Pat Rust who each scored nine in the final quarter.

Olson, who consistently went to the net with confidence, scored 12 of his 15 points in the paint.

Four Cardinal players scored in double-digits, led by junior Cooper Heusman with 12. Olson’s 15 were next best, and junior Trevor Berry and Rust each had 11.

“Our guys scored some points for us,” Coach Barry says of the offensive production during the team’s second victory over the district-rival Tigers. “They’re pretty confident in what they do against Mitchell and they shot the ball with confidence.”

The Cardinals made 12 of 13 free-throw attempts as Heusman, Olson, Rust, and junior Kristian Bartlett were all perfect from the line, with senior PJ Ngoi tallying the only miss.

Further proof of his time spent in the key, Olson led the Cardinals with four offensive rebounds. He also added three defensive rebounds as he, Rust and Bartlett led the team with 7 total rebounds each. Rust and teammate Berry led the team with six defensive rebounds while Bartlett had five.

In addition to Mitchell’s Reichert, who led the game with 17 points, the Tigers also received notable performances from 6-foot-6 junior Pieper who had 13 points, and Rylan Aguallo who had 10.

Chadron’s victory builds on two previous wins earned just prior to the holiday break at the annual Chadron Rotary Classic tournament which had ended a slide of four consecutive losses through mid-December.

The win also preserved the team’s 3-0 record against district opponents this season. The Cardinals entered Tuesday night’s home matchup with Hemingford 6-5. Results of the game were not available at time of press.

Friday the team travels to Alliance to face the Bulldogs at home. Although the 10-2 Bulldogs are currently enjoying a seven-game win streak, as of Monday, only three of their opponents had a winning record this season. Tipoff follows the girls’ game which is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

Mitchell 3 7 18 20 ---48

Chadron 12 16 11 23 ---62

Mitchell—Keaton Reichert 17, Jonathan Pieper 13, Rylan Aguallo 10, Hunter Fegler 4, Caden Knutson 2, Francisco Barrias 2. Totals: 19 (4) 6-13 48.

Chadron—Cooper Heusman 16, Colton Olson 15, Pat Rust 11, Trevor Berry 11, Kristian Bartlett 5. Totals: 22 (6) 12-13 62.

3-pointers: Mitch-- Reichert 3, Pieper 1. Chad—Berry 3, Heusman 2, Bartlett 1.

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