The Cascade boys’ basketball team fell to Monticello, 64-29, in its 2021 opener at home, Jan. 8, but the Cougars bounced back to handle Durant, 40-25, on the road, Jan. 9.

Going 1-1 for the week, the Cougars are now 4-6 for the season and 3-5 in the River Valley Conference North Division.

“In the first quarter we played hard to contain their offense and we were still in the game at halftime, but it got away from us in the third quarter,” said coach Nate McMullen. “They got on a big run and we just struggled to stop them.”

After being held to just 22 points in the first half, Monticello put up 20 points in the third quarter and 22 in the fourth as they handed the Cougars a 35-point loss.

A lot of that 42-point explosion in the second half has a lot to do with the talent of Monticello more than it has to do with Cascade. However, McMullen does realize that his team has to keep working hard on the defensive end as they are still a work in progress.

“We have to be able to give a consistent effort for the entire game rather than just playing hard for a couple of minutes. Effort is the thing that we always have to hang our hat on,” said McMullen. “The effort from our kids is there and we know that. We're trying to preach to value each possession that we play, both defensively and offensively. That's one thing I learned from Coach (Al) Marshall when I played and that was continued by Coach (Jacob) Brindle when he was here. That's something I took from those two guys that I firmly believe in, which is that each possession does matter.”

Cascade showed that effort and their ability to change the game with their defense when they handed Durant a 40-25 loss in Durant, Jan. 9.

“The kids responded well in a short-turnaround situation when we played Durant. We were able to put together four solid quarters of basketball and come out on top of that one,” said McMullen pointing to the fact that the Cougars committed 29 turnovers against Monticello and just one day later against Durant just nine.

“To have that big of a difference in such an important part of emphasis for us in a very short amount of time is very impressive,” said McMullen. “It shows they do understand. It shows it matters to them and that they are buying into what we are doing here.”

After a defensive heavy first quarter, the Cougars started to find the bottom of the basket and outscored Durant 12-4 to take a 17-7 lead at halftime.

Cascade continued to rely on their defense in the second half and worked on their offensive efficiency during the final 16 minutes of play. The Cougars did take some steps forward offensively as they had assists on 11 of their 16 made baskets, but the famed Cascade defense and team effort were the most consistent things on display in this game.

“Going into the break, we knew who we were and what plays work for us and things like that. Coming out of the break, we are a better team than we were when we went in,” said McMullen. “Now, because of all the three game weeks that are on the schedule, the season is going to fly by. There's not as much time for preparation and skill work. So every single day you come to practice you've got to be locked in and ready to go.”

Cascade’s leaders against Monticello were: points — Eli Green and Hoffman six, Jackson McAleer and Tanner Simon four, Cole McDermott, Cooper Rausch, Justin Roling and Luke Ruggeberg two, Gavin Manternach one; rebounds — McAleer six, McDermott five, Roling two, Hoffman, Green and Rausch one; assists — McAleer two, Hoffman, Green, Roling and Rausch one; steals — Hoffman two, McDermott one; blocks — Keagan Lamey one.

Leading the Cougars against Durant were: points — Green 10, McAleer nine, McDermott seven, Hoffman and Rausch five, Simon four; rebounds — McAleer eight, McDermott six, Green and Hoffman two, Roling and Ruggeberg one; assists — McAleer four, Hoffman and Rausch three, Green one; steals — Green, McAleer, McDermott and Rausch one; blocks — McAleer three and McDermott one.