EagleHerald/Billy Betts Suring's Caleb Lally attempts an acrobatic shot over Coleman's Caleb Bintz during the first half of their game on Monday.
EagleHerald/Billy Betts Suring's Caleb Lally attempts an acrobatic shot over Coleman's Caleb Bintz during the first half of their game on Monday.

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COLEMAN — A last-minute Saturday practice made all the difference in the world for Tim Forner and his Coleman boys basketball team.

Behind an offense that consistently made the extra pass and a defense that made nothing easy for Suring, the Cougars stayed perfect in the M&O Conference after defeating the Eagles 58-40 on Monday.

Forner didn’t like what he saw from his team during its victory over Wausaukee on Friday, so he called a Saturday afternoon practice to work out some kinks, before facing an Eagles team that the Cougars shared a three-way tie for the M&O title last year.

The formula worked as Coleman jumped out to 31-13 lead at the half and never looked back. 

“I just didn’t like how we played on Friday, so we had a practice for about an hour and a half on Saturday and just worked on ball movement and defensive pressure” Forner said. “I give the kids a lot of credit, it was a great practice, especially on a Saturday when they’re giving up their weekend. The results showed tonight.”

The game plan going in was clear for the Cougars and that was to stabilize Suring’s top two players, Mitchell Stegeman and Caleb Lally, and make others beat them.

A Cayden Bintz 3-pointer and baskets inside by Nick Teteak and Logan Zeitler helped the Cougars jump out to a 13-2 lead seven minutes into the contest.

With six minutes left in the first half, Stegeman kept the Eagles within seven at 16-9 when he knocked down a deep jumper.

Coleman’s defense though, cause Suring fits as the Cougars finished the half on a 15-4 run behind two fast-break layups by Payton Nelson and several turnovers which led to easy baskets.

“They really made things hard for us on offense and we just didn’t do a good enough job adjusting,” Suring coach Jim Keefe said. “They have some great athletes, just like Crivitz and they were able to take away Mitchell and Caleb, which we weren’t able to overcome.”

The lead grew to 29 points at 52-23 mid-way through the second half as Simon Maedke connected on four straight shot attempts for the Cougars and their defense continued to frustrate the Eagles.

It wasn’t until the final four minutes when the Eagles were able to find a groove. Stegeman buried a three while drawing a foul and completed the four-point play after knocking down the free throw. Lally followed with a put-back shot inside and a three of his own, helping Suring finish the game on a 12-2 run.

“Our final unit played really well together and we’re going to look at using them more, because we played our best basketball the final few minutes,” said Keefe. “Our starting lineup is still in flux. We’ve got to find another scorer and I’m still trying to figure out what defense best suits us.”

Balance has been the motto for the Cougars (2-3 overall, 2-0 in the M&O), and Monday was a prime example as five players finished with nine or more points and four were in double figures.

“They just focused on playing basketball and finding the open man for the easiest shot,” Forner said. “They played a couple different zones against us and we really like matching up against a zone. We read the defenses well and went after the best looks.”

Maedke led the Cougars with 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Teteak finished with 11 and both Nelson and Bintz scored 10 apiece.

Lally paced the Eagles (3-3 overall, 1-2 in the M&O) with 18 points and Stegeman finished with 14.

“I’m just really proud of the way the boys worked their butts off tonight,” Forner said. “We’re seeing a lot of growth from this young team. Still plenty of room to get better, but I’m pleased with the progress.”