The Algona boys took a big step in the right direction here Friday.
Eighth-ranked (Class 2A) St. Edmond, meanwhile, must now take a step back and regroup.
The Bulldogs broke free from the Gaels down the stretch for a 50-46 road victory over their North Central Conference rivals last night in the SEHS gym.
It was a rare home misstep for head coach Adolph Kochendorfer's squad, who turned the ball over 20 times and never saw the lead again after losing it to the Bulldogs (3-1 overall, 3-1 in the NCC) late in the third quarter.
''We talk all the time about getting better with each game, and realizing what it takes to compete on the road in this conference,'' Algona head coach Noel McLaughlin said. ''We want to always give ourselves a chance in the fourth quarter, and we did that (Friday).
''Any time you can get a win at St. Edmond, those are the kind of signature wins you look for as a program. This is a big one for our confidence.''
ALGONA 50, ST. EDMOND 46
Algona - Sawyer Frideres 5-10 3-5 15, Luke TerHark 4-10 3-4 14, Justin Raymond 4-7 1-2 9, Trevor Loeschen 1-2 3-5 6, Cole Nielsen 0-1 0-0 0, Clay Collison 1-2 1-2 4, Ethan Poeppe 0-0 1-2 1, Brandon Benschoter 0-0 1-2 1, Luke Arrowood 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-32 13-22 50.
St. Edmond - David Flattery 5-12 5-5 18, Robbie Burke 6-11 0-2 12, Aaron McElroy 1-2 3-3 5, Aaron Chalstrom 1-3 0-0 2, Hank Crimmins 0-0 0-0 0, Landon Peed 2-2 1-1 5, Eddie Doyle 2-2 0-0 4, Alex Mericle 0-1 0-1 0. Totals: 17-33 9-12 46.
Quarter scores: Tied 10-10, 22-22; Algona led 36-35. Three-point goals: Algona 7-18 (TerHark 3-8, Frideres 2-4, Loeschen 1-2, Collison 1-2, Raymond 0-2); St. Edmond 3-9 (Flattery 3-7, Chalstrom 0-2). Turnovers: Algona 15, St. Edmond 20. Total fouls: Algona 18, St. Edmond 20. Fouled out: Doyle.
Sawyer Frideres, one of only two Bulldog senior starters, had 11 of his 15 points in the second half - including seven in the final period. Frideres swished a three-point basket with 3:02 remaining to give Algona a 45-40 advantage, marking the first time either side led by more than a single possession after the intermission.
Clinging to a two-point edge with 21 seconds left, Bulldog sophomore Luke TerHark then calmly sank a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
''Sawyer was steady for us down the stretch. He's been through these tests before,'' McLaughlin said. ''Luke hasn't been at the varsity level long, but there is already a trust factor there with the ball in his hands. He's an excellent shooter and very consistent.''
TerHark added 14 points for Algona.
Senior David Flattery had a game-high 18 points to pace St. Edmond (3-1, 3-1), and Robbie Burke added 12. The Gaels made just one field goal in the final 4:41 of regulation, though, and no one else had more than five points.
''We've been hearing for a while how good we are, with the Top-10 ranking and the 3-0 start,'' Kochendorfer said. ''When you're winning and things are going well, it tends to mask a lot of mistakes. This is still a learning experience for a lot of our kids, who found out the hard way just how important toughness and execution can be.
''Algona out-played us and out-hustled us. Plain and simple. They were scrappy and tenacious, which have always been trademarks of our program. We weren't good on the boards or strong enough with the ball. They were.''
McLaughlin also pointed to the defense of junior guard Justin Raymond as a difference-maker in the program's first victory at St. Edmond since 2010.
''Justin did an outstanding job guarding (senior Aaron) Chalstrom (who had been averaging 14.3 points and shooting 73 percent from the field coming in),'' McLaughlin said. ''Flattery had 18, but we didn't want both Flattery and Chalstrom both to beat us (Chalstrom attempted just three field goals and had only two points). Again, you need that kind of effort if you want to win on the road.''
The Gaels return to action at Humboldt on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are at Eagle Grove that same night.
''The target is going to be on our back; we'll get every team's best shot because of our (prior success),'' Kochendorfer said. ''We just have to keep improving and be ready to play from start to finish. That will come. There's no need to panic. This was just a reality check of sorts and now it's up to us to respond.''