He entered the game to a loud applause.
He left the game having made a big impact.
Junior center Tim Bergstraser made his long-awaited return to the St. Cloud State lineup Saturday in a nonconference game against NAIA Ashford University at Halenbeck Hall.
The St. Cloud Apollo graduate had been rehabbing for the past nine months after he tore the ACL in his left knee for the second time in March in a first-round game at the NCAA Division II Central Region Tournament in Golden, Colo.
Bergstraser looked like he hadn’t missed a beat as he scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in nine minutes off the bench to help the No. 19 Huskies to a 90-59 win over the Saints.
“It was mind-boggling to go through this process for a second time,” said Bergstraser, who had his old ACL removed and had it replaced with a cadaver’s ligament. “I got a lot of support from my team and the fans here. My family and friends provided a lot of motivation for me.
“I really appreciated the applause. I loved every second of it.”
His teammates and head coach were equally happy to see him back.
“It was great to see him back,” said SCSU senior point guard Shaun Jensen, who led the Huskies with 21 points and six assists. “It’s been building up since we started practice in October. We’ve seen him at practice and we kept wondering when he was going to come back for sure.
“We’ve missed him. He’s so strong and physical.”
Said SCSU coach Kevin Schlagel: “We’ve been waiting for a long time to get him back. He’s such a great kid and he loves this game so much. It’s nice to see him get rewarded for all the hard work he’s put into it. I think we were all excited for him. It only took him five seconds to score. That was pretty amazing.”
The Saints had a 29-21 lead on the Huskies when Bergstraser checked in. It took the 6-foot-6, 240-pounder about five seconds to score. He culminated a three-point play to get the Huskies within 29-24.
Bergstraser let out a big scream after his first bucket.
“There was a lot built-up inside me. I just had to let everything out,” Bergstraser said. “This was a long process for me — nine months’ worth. It was good to get that emotion out of my system.”
He added another basket about three minutes later to give his team the lead for good at 31-29.
Bergstraser’s three-point play started a 17-0 run to finish the first half for St. Cloud State. Ashford was no match for the Huskies inside. St. Cloud State had a 50-22 scoring edge in the paint. Seven-foot center Chris Larson added six points and four blocks down low.
“One thing we’ve missed without Tim down there is getting easy baskets in the paint,” Jensen said. “We need his rebounding intensity. That kid will do anything for you on and off the court. It always shows on the court. He goes to war.”
The Huskies shot 65.5 percent for the game and went 9 of 14 from three-point range. They had to overcome some rust to start the game, but that was to be expected after a two-week layoff between games.
St. Cloud State returns to NSIC action on Friday when they host the University of Mary at 8 p.m.
“I expected the rust. I told the guys in the locker room before the game that I could live with what happened during the first few minutes because we’re getting back into the flow of things,” Schlagel said. “What bothered me is that the rust lasted a little too long.
“We needed somebody to give us a lift and Tim certainly did that when he came in.”
Brown has surgery
SCSU junior forward Kenquane Brown missed the game after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus on Wednesday. He’s expected to miss 2-3 weeks.
Vesteinn Sveinsson 8-17 6-6 22, Joshua Little 1-2 0-0 2 (10 rebounds, 3 steals), Austin Uhrig 0-2 0-0 0-0 0, DeAndre Lowery 4-10 0-1 10, Damon Overton 1-2 0-0 2, Mitch Jankowski 0-1 0-0 0, Brandon Weston 3-5 3-3 12, Kevin Gray 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Yeocum 0-1 0-0 0, Tim Huber 4-11 3-3 11. Totals: FG 21-52, FT 12-13, REB 29, PF 14, TO 18.
ST. CLOUD STATE (90)
Theo Rothstein 5-8 0-1 12, Connor Niehaus 2-5 0-0 5 (7 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals), James Fort 1-2 1-3 3, Shaun Jensen 9-15 3-3 21 (6 assists), Damarius Cruz 2-4 0-0 4, Kevin Levandoski 1-1 0-0 3 (4 assists), Jordan Poydras 2-4 0-0 5, Preston McCourt 1-2 0-0 3, Nash Faulk 2-2 0-0 4, Jon Christensen 1-1 0-0 2, Tyson Kalien 4-4 0-0 10, Scott Hawkins 1-1 0-0 3, Chris Larson 3-5 0-0 6 (4 blocks), Tim Bergstraser 4-4 1-2 9 (5 rebounds). Totals: FG 38-58, FT 5-9, REB 27, PF 14, TO 12.
Halftime score: St. Cloud State 38, Ashford 29.