After years of success in baseball and a pair of state titles, Mike Wiss’s turn to varsity basketball has the Minster girls in a familiar state of mind…winning.
Minster – Mike Wiss is accustomed to winning, and his assimilation to a quick start as the new coach of the women’s basketball program at Minster comes as no surprise, especially to him.
Taking over the reins late in the process of replacing Nann Stechschulte, who stepped down at the end of the last season, Wiss smiles at the irony that anyone would be surprised by the Lady Wildcats’ 4-0 start.
“I coached with Nann for 19 years, and another three years under Mike Lee,” he said Thursday after a convincing 48-33 win over Coldwater. “And I guess you can’t see everything in 22 years, but I’ve seen and learned a lot.”
And the one constant in all those years, both baseball and basketball, you have to play defense if you’re going to play…for Nann Stechschulte, Mike Lee, or Mike Wiss. Force the other team to wither, and that pretty much sums up how Minster won Thursday.
Coldwater (5-2) played tough for the first eight minutes and led after one, 12-8, a low-scoring quarter by both teams, buoyed by Kourtney Diller, Olivia Harlamert, and Maura Hoying.
But leading 16-15 with 1:38 remaining before halftime, Minster went on a 10-0 run that rocked the Cavaliers, punctuated by a big three-pointer by Alli Fischer, and a back-breaker at the horn by Lindsay Roetgerman. They outscored Coldwater 14-3 in the quarter and the Cavs never threatened in the second half.
That 10-0 run seemed to settle Minster into a familiar defensive posture, and from that point on they played with a confidence that would have pleased even Stechschulte and Lee.
“Our idea was to limit what Coldwater does well,” says Wiss of his team’s explosion at the end of the half…and their new-found confidence after halftime.
“I thought the things we asked the girls to do, and what we worked on in practice this week…I thought we did very well.”
Obviously, his request included defense.
“Obviously,” smiled Wiss. “The team defense we got tonight was what needs to happen when you’re playing in the MAC. It’s physical, it’s rough, and not every foul is going to get called. That’s what it was tonight. I’ll tell you…I’m proud of my kids because they came out and really played defense the way it’s supposed to be played.”
The fact that the ‘Cats shared the basketball, and the scoring load, went unmentioned, but not unnoticed. Fischer (6 pts.), Roetgerman (3), Ali Borgerding (13), Courtney Prenger (12), and Rosie Westerbeck (9), all moved the ball and cashed in on sheer hustle and and easy looks around the rim.
The 10-0 run at the end of the half turned out to be the genesis of a very satisfying finish.
“Basketball is kind of a game of runs,” said point guard Rosie Westerbeck. “And once we got on that run we found some chemistry and started to read each other more. And that’s what our season is going to be about. It’s what we need to do to develop and further ourselves…to know what each of us do well and how to find each other in the offense. The shot that Lindsay made at the end of the half was just huge!”
Four games is not a lot of time to develop chemistry, but Westerbeck points to a seldom-talked-about attribute that’s paying early dividends at Minster.
“Our JV team is really strong,” she added. “And our bench is strong. Tonight was our first tough MAC game and our JV team did a great job of pushing us in practice. They prepare us for games like this.”
Which is music to Wiss’s ears, who coached the JV program under Stechschulte all those years.
“I learned a lot under Nann and Mike in those 22 years,” says Wiss. “Those are two good people and the one thing I’ve learned in all those years is the importance of a relationship when you walk in the door. It’s nice when the kids walk past your room during the day and just say hello. And my relationship with the kids might be different than others, but I believe it’s important sometimes to just give someone a hug and tell them job well done.
“This is totally different than baseball, because you don’t have time to think about whether you can hit and run on a 2-2 count. But I really enjoy it. I enjoy this group of girls. I won 60 games with them as JVs and relationship part, I believe, is going to pay dividends as we get deeper into the season. Tonight we were able to get the ball inside to Courtney, and we’ve got to do a better job of finishing (at the rim).”
Some numbers: Minster finished shooting 40% from the floor (19 of 47), while the defensive effort with which Mike Wiss was so pleased limited Coldwater to just 11 of 45…24%. Minster hit 7 of 11 from the foul line (63%) and Coldwater was 10 of 13 (71%).
Ali Borgerding led all scorers with 13 points, while Kourtney Diller and Olivia Harlamert shared team honors for Coldwater with 7 points each.
It is a turnover at Minster that after four games seems seamless, familiar, and the biggest irony in basketball…one that no one seems to mind. For Mike Wiss it’s just a different kind of ‘Cat.
The winning part? So far nothing’s changed.