MISSOULA — Of the 20 points Logan Nicholson scored in Deer Lodge’s 56-44 win over Loyola Sacred Heart on Tuesday night, none might have been more important than the three he got early in the third quarter.
The District 6-B rivals were tied at 23 at halftime and three turnovers kick-started the third quarter. Both teams were looking to land a punch and Nicholson delivered with a triple. Loyola never tied or took the lead again.
“Second quarter, we kinda let them back in it and we were frustrated after half,” said Nicholson. “We kinda went in there and talked about what we were doing wrong and came back and out executed and that’s what we needed.”
Nicholson brings far more than scoring to the Wardens and the sophomore showcased it against the Rams. A quick pass inside to Aidan Thompson a few possessions after his quarter-opening three helped open up the lead, an 8-0 run that was capped by Nicholson finishing a three-point play.
The passing reminds fifth-year Deer Lodge head coach Dakota Norris of another Nicholson — Greydon, Logan’s older brother and a freshman wide receiver at Montana Western.
“We’ve even compared Greydon (Nicholson) to him a little bit to the point where we’re asking him to do some of the things Greydon did passing the ball,” Norris said. “Greydon was one of the best passers we’ve ever had. Logan’s able to score the ball a little better … He’s really developing well, he’s playing great defense, he’s one of our best defensive players and he was special tonight.”
Breakaways on defense were one of the reasons Deer Lodge was able to grab the lead in the third quarter. Nicholson had several steals and converted those fast-break points at a high clip.
The Rams turned to a press and full-court man pressure in the latter stages of the game, which flummoxed the Wardens for long stretches of the game.
“I thought we did get some good hands on balls, we just couldn’t turn it into anything on the offensive end,” Rams head coach Eddie Stack said. “(Deer Lodge is) an athletic group, they’re a long group, they’re a physical group altogether and we definitely like to make the game moving as fast as we could. I think we when struggled is when we really slowed down.”
Loyola likes playing at tempo, but Deer Lodge dictated post of the game. The Wardens slowed things down several times throughout the game, working themselves into good shots and breaking down the Rams defense.
Aidan Thompson kicked in 10 points for Loyola, while Jaden Job led Loyola with 16. Job scored Loyola’s first seven points on offense and was key in the first-half run that tied the game before halftime.
But on Tuesday evening inside Sister Rita Mudd Activity, it was simply Deer Lodge’s night. The win puts Deer Lodge at 6-3 on the year and 3-1 in District 6-B. The win was the first in 14 tries against Loyola for Norris and it had been at least six years since the Wardens had topped the Rams coming into the game.
And it was a young and up-and-coming sophomore — making just his fourth start of the year — that’s helping push the Wardens to what looks like could be a special season.
“He makes plenty of mistakes but he’s so young it’s incredible that a kid like that can be the heart of our team,” Norris said. “Right now it’s amazing to see what he’s been doing.”