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Stillwater boys forced to turn to the bench for a lift after injuries

Playing games on consecutive nights and overcoming injuries to a pair of senior starters didn't seem to bother the Stillwater Area High School boys basketball team. Fatigue was not a factor and the Ponies actually played better on the second day.

In getting past Andover on Friday, Dec. 19, Andrew Boldt was sidelined in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle after scoring 15 points. Stillwater was forced to rely on their bench to knock off Duluth Central 74-46 on Saturday.

"Our team depth really paid off today. Jake Meyers really stepped in and played great with Boldt sidelined. Kevin Gullikson, our other post, got two quick fouls, so it was up to Jake to be the force inside," Stillwater coach Dennis Bloom said. "Meyers defense was a real key for our team."

John Heinbigner was also out with a sprained ankle, so there was a real opportunity for someone to step up. Meyers was one of a few Ponies to do just that, with his 22 points, on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc.

Ryan Hicks also provided a spark for Stillwater off the bench.

"Even though (Hicks') stats don't show a lot of scoring, he gave us some real valuable minutes both at the post and at the forward spot," Bloom said. "That is the nice thing about Hicksy. He knows ever position on the floor where to go and what to do. We can throw him into any situation and know there will be no mistakes."

Jay Higgins dropped in 14 points and Gullikson added 11 for Stillwater, which only had a four-point lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, it extended the lead to 29-20 before outscoring the Trojans 45-26 in the second half.

"I thought Jay Higgins really played well for us," Bloom said. "He was taking the ball strong to the hoop and really caused problems for them with his defense."

The Ponies shot the lights out as a team, converting 47 percent from three-point range, on 7-of-15 shooting, and hitting 54 percent overall. Higgins and Gullikson were the hottest shooters, combining for 25 points while missing just three shots.

Stillwater 75, Andover 63

The Ponies built a small lead early on, but let Andover climb back in the game as the Huskies closed out the second quarter with the final 11 points to tie the game 35-35. Meyers scored seven of his nine points in the decisive third quarter to help Stillwater outscore Andover 24-9 and go ahead by 15 and seal the win.

Gullikson poured in a season-high 24 points to lead the Ponies. The Huskies were led by sophomore Wally Voss, who tossed in a game-high 26 points.

Andrew Boldt tossed in 15 points before leaving the game, and Andrew DuPlessis added 12 in the win. Higgins and Schmiesing each had five assists on the night.

"We talked about three things at halftime: getting the ball inside, going to the offensive rebounds and keeping pressure on the ball. We got the ball to Gullikson in the second half and when we missed, he was there to clean up the rebounds," Bloom said. "Boldt played his best defense on the season in that second half before spraining his ankle."