6TH MAN THE STAR
Eklund embraces role, erupts for 21 points in Lynx win
WEBSTER CITY — Tavis Eklund didn’t question the decision that moved him from the Webster City starting lineup to the role of sixth man as 2018 turned into 2019. He didn’t sulk or pout, opting instead to embrace the challenge.
That’s what team players do. And if the sophomore has proven anything to his coaches and teammates, it’s that he plays for the name on the front of his jersey, not the one that is metaphorically on the back.
Playing with a newfound comfort coming off the bench, Eklund provided an offensive spark in the form of a career-high 21 points to lead WCHS to a 59-53 non-conference victory over Manson-Northwest Webster Tuesday night. He erupted for 13 points in the second quarter, had 16 at the intermission, and then calmed the choppy waters of a close contest late with three made free throws.
Starting lineup or sixth man, it doesn’t matter to him. All he wants to do is contribute.
“Coach talked to me (about the move) and we were both OK with it,” Eklund said. “That’s what’s best for the team right now and it’s working pretty well right now.”
WCHS head coach Marty McKinney was ecstatic with Eklund’s contributions against the Cougars. He’s even more appreciative of the way Eklund has handled the transition.
“I wouldn’t call it a demotion or a loss of a starting spot, it just gave us a little different option,” McKinney said. “Some kids wouldn’t be able to handle it, but Tavis is not a selfish guy. He hasn’t let it bother him at all and that speaks a lot about him.”
Eklund canned three 3-pointers in the second quarter to help WCHS (5-3) extend its lead to 38-24 at the intermission. Tyler Olson popped off for eight first-quarter points and the Lynx appeared to be in command of the contest.
But things went wonky after the break.
With senior center Henry Hoversten trapped in foul purgatory, WCHS slowly saw its lead dwindle. Sloppy passing drew the ire of McKinney, who watched his team turn the ball over 18 times in all.
“I thought we were really focused late in the first quarter and throughout that second quarter, but for whatever reason we lost our sense of urgency in the second half,” McKinney said.
The Cougars (2-8), down by as many as 16 points early in the second half, closed to within eight after three quarters. They eventually trimmed the deficit to three points on three occasions in the fourth.
Hoversten, the team’s leading scorer on the season, sat for much of the third quarter after he picked up foul No. 3. The fourth foul came early in the fourth. He re-entered the game with 4:25 remaining, but lasted just 33 seconds before his fifth foul sent him to the bench for good.
“Henry has done a great job all year of avoiding foul trouble, but (Tuesday night) was not one of those nights,” McKinney said of his senior who finished with nine points and nine rebounds. “But give the guys credit, they stepped up.”
The Cougars closed to within 52-49 on a Dayton Snell third-chance bucket with 1:03 remaining, but Eklund had the answer with three consecutive free throws to extend the Lynx lead back to six. Drake Doering followed with a pair of free throws, and Dylan Steen and Olson both made one down the stretch.
WCHS went 7 of 11 at the charity stripe over the final 62 seconds and was 9 of 16 overall.
Olson (13 points) and Doering (10 points) both scored in double figures as well for the Lynx, who won a non-conference contest for the first time and extended their winning streak to four. Steen yanked down seven rebounds, dished out four assists and collected two steals to go along with four points. Doering and Carter Neuroth both distributed three assists.
Kaden Hanson and Riley Peters registered 11 and 10 points, respectively, to lead Manson-Northwest Webster.
Webster City 59, Man-NW Web 53
Tuesday at Webster City
Manson-NW Webster (2-8) — Brian Pearson 3 0-0 8, Austin Anliker 0 0-0 0, Derek Girard 2 4-6 8, Dawson Estergaard 4 0-0 8, Dayton Snell 3 0-1 6, Kaden Hanson 5 0-0 11, Riley Peters 4 1-2 10, Sean Peters 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 5-9 53.
Webster City (5-3) — Dylan Steen 1 2-4 4, Drake Doering 3 2-3 10, Nathan Ferrell 0 0-0 0, Tavis Eklund 7 3-4 21, Tyler Olson 6 1-2 13, Carter Neuroth 1 0-0 2, Henry Hoversten 4 1-2 9. Totals: 22 9-16 59.
M-NW Web 12 12 16 13 — 53
Webster City 18 20 10 11 — 59
3-point field goals — MAN 4 (Pearson 2, Hanson, Peters); WC 6 (Eklund 4, Doering 2). Rebounds — WC 26 (Hoversten 9, Steen 7). Steals — WC 5 (Steen 2). Assists — WC 14 (Steen 4, Doering 3, Neuroth 3). Turnovers — WC 18. Team fouls — MAN 17, WC 11. Fouled out — WC: Hoversten.