Inbounding the ball with seconds remaining, the Huskies got it into the hands of junior guard Mikah Elstad, who was in his third minute of action and had yet to make a mark in the box score. Before the final seconds ticked away and the buzzer sounded, Elstad took an open look from three and swished the shot.
Blink and you might’ve thought that Elstad just hit a buzzer-beater to win the state championship.
Those were the only three points Elstad scored Tuesday night, but his buzzer-beating bucket at the end of the second half eclipsed triple digits on the scoreboard for the Huskies as Owatonna defeated Big 9 Conference foe Faribault 101-46.
Before they stepped on the court, the Huskies were coming off what senior guard Brayden Williams described as a “bittersweet loss” against Park of Cottage Grove in the Rochester Hoops Challenge.
Up against a struggling Falcons team, the Huskies (7-2, 6-0) were more than primed for a bounce back game and they ended up with one of the biggest offensive showcases in school history.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve had a team shoot and play that way. The way the ball was popping around and finding the open guy…I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Owatonna coach Josh Williams said. “I’ve been on the other side of that when teams shoot like that and you kind of shake your head and say, ‘what do you do?’”
All of this was done without one of their core pieces in the lineup as well. Senior forward Evan Dushek watched from the bench in street clothes as Williams and the coaching staff elected to let him fully rest a tweaked ankle from the game against Park.
Brayden Williams led the way with 24 points while shooting nearly 53% from the field with seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals. The only other two to score in double figures were senior guard Ty Creger with 16 points (60% from the field, 57% from three) and Nick Williams with 12 points (4-for-4 from three).
What made the Huskies’ win special wasn’t two to three different players, it was the 15 different Huskies that all saw playing time against the Falcons en route to the 101 combined points.
“We came out and said we’re going to put these guys away right away whether we had Evan [Dushek] or not,” Brayden Williams said. “That’s how it was from the start. We came right at them and just kept going the rest of the game.”
The plan worked to a tee, as the Huskies rolled into halftime leading 57-27 and made more shots than the Falcons attempted. Owatonna shot 24-for-41 from the field and connected on 8 of 17 3-pointers. The Falcons shot 11-for-21 from the field and 4-for-9 from three.
Seniors Connor Ginskey and Jack Helget, who have primarily served as role players coming off the bench, both got to start for the Huskies. Helget played 20 minutes on the floor and recorded eight points after going 4-for-4 from the field. Ginskey played in 16 minutes and recorded five points after knocking down his only 3-point attempt and going 2 of 3 from the field.
From there, Owatonna had turned to some of its usual suspects off the bench with the likes of Collin Vick and Avery Hartman seeing time on the court, but as new players checked in and the blistering-hot shooting night didn’t cool down, they turned to even more faces to get into the game.
Seniors Noah Kubicek, Drew Randall and Noah Hodgman checked for some valuable time on the court. Owatonna also turned to juniors Elstad, Ayden Walter, Trevor Hiatt and Jason Klecker.
“I was really excited from our bench guys, especially some of the seniors that either get limited minutes or don’t normally get to play,” Josh Williams said. “They come to practice everyday and are working hard and competing. Their attitude has been fantastic and to be able to get to a game where we can get them some minutes or significant minutes on the floor was awesome.”
By the end of the night, 15 total Huskies got to play at least three minutes or more on the court, nine played for 10 minutes or more and 12 recorded a point.
Despite consistently mixing and matching players throughout the game, the Huskies closed out the second half with a borderline perfect shooting performance after connecting on an outstanding 17 of 21 attempts from the field and 8-for-9 from three.
Through both halves, the Huskies went a total of 41-for-62 from the field, 16-for-26 from three and made five of their seven free throw opportunities.
“We just had a really good flow to the game,” Brayden Williams said. “I think it’s the first game we’ve played really well together as a team and shot the ball well. It was just flowing really well for us.”
The win couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for Owatonna, which remains as the only undefeated team in Big 9 Conference.
Mankato West, meanwhile, dropped its first conference game of the season Tuesday night in a 62-51 loss to Mankato East.
Owatonna hosts Rochester John Marshall on Thursday night before preparing to take on both Mankato schools. The Huskies travel to take on Mankato West on Tuesday, Jan. 18 and return home to host Mankato East on Saturday, Jan. 22.