A cold shooting night and an energized defensive effort by the Minster Wildcats brought Russia down from their high Saturday, a “friendly” reminder from an old friend.
Minster – The worst possible thing happened Saturday night to a team of anticipated destiny. The Russia Raiders…simply had a poor shooting night.
And for a team of perennial post-season expectation, a team in the thick of a heated Shelby County League title chase, and a team that’s featured one heart-stopping win after another through their first fourteen games, it came as a reminder.
1) Make every point-blank opportunity at the rim count. And 2), never take a hot streak for granted. You’re only as good as your next disappointment.
To be sure, the 6-5 Minster Wildcats had something to do with a 32% shooting night by Russia (17 for 52). It’s a program known for stingy defense and relentless effort during the glory years with former coach Mike Lee. But they served notice with a 53-46 win Saturday that the rebuilding of that tradition for the past month under former assistant and first-year head coach Mike McClurg was no fluke.
The Raiders, fresh off a nail-biter win over Jackson Center on the road Friday, did anything but help their cause with a spate of missed ‘bunnies’ from the post at the outset of the game. Minster took advantage
Trailing 14-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Wildcats scrapped and clawed their way back into contention with a trio of huge made three-point shots: One by Aaron Ernst…one by Isaac Schmiesing…and one at the buzzer before halftime by Mike Ketner that knotted the score at 22-22.
“Offensively we broke out of our shell a little bit tonight,” said McClurg with a broad smile after the game. “I know we didn’t put up 60 some points, but we scored in the situations where we needed to score. That’s a credit to our guys and their toughness tonight.”
And a credit to their attention to the basics, like an ill-advised shot from the corner by Isaac Schmiesing with a five-point lead and a minute left on the clock and in the game. The shot went wide…but Johnny-on-the-spot, senior Isaac Dorsten, all 6’3” and 250 pounds of him, denied Russia’s Jack Dapore rebounding position. It’s called “boxing out”, and Dorsten did it to perfection, claimed the offensive rebound, and stuck it back in for the game-winning dagger to any comeback bid.
But to get to that point they had to serve an impressive notice with a 19-point third quarter and more clutch shooting by Schmiesing, Ketner, Andrew Broering, Jared Huelsman, Jared Schulze, and Dorsten. Combined they were 6 for eleven from the field, and 3 of five from three-point range.
More, they held Russia to just 20 points for the entire second half, 10 in each quarter, by sheer hustle and an improved man-to-man defense. On too many empty Raider possessions, they were actually stopped short of getting to the rim by the Wildcats.
“We stayed aggressive throughout the second half and in the fourth quarter,” said McClurg. “I told them if we don’t score any more points we’re not going to win anyway, so we have to keep attacking.
“But we also give a belt each night for toughness, and tonight we gave that belt to Isaac Dorsten. I thought he shut down their big guys tonight in the second half. We have come together over the past month, we’re communicating better on defense, and we’re understanding about how to play together. It’s taken some time, but we’re getting to that point.”
Getting to the point(s)…Russia, a team known for sharing the basketball and balanced scoring, had but one player in double figures. Jack Dapore finished with 11 points, while Cole Tebbe and Dan Kearns added 9 points apiece. Dylan Cordonnier and Drew Poling had 6 each.
Minster finished shooting 48% with nine different players who put points in the book, led by Aaron Ernst with 10. Isaac Schmiesing (9), Bryce Schmiesing (4), Ketner (9), Broering (3), Jared Huelsman (2), Cody Frericks (3), Schulze (5), and Dorsten (8) did their best to share the wealth.
It was a game that had felt like a tournament challenge, something that Russia relishes at this point of the season, and they’ll get their fill in short order with Versailles, Loramie, Anna, and Marion Local all ahead on their remaining schedule.
It was a game that Spencer Cordonnier would have wanted in terms of tournament-like execution and efficiency. But sometimes you tip your hat to reality and the prospect that a team like Minster can simply make you miss. The ‘thing’ doesn’t go through the ‘ring’ like you want every night.
“We’ve been on a pretty good run, and we’ve won a lot of close games,” said Cordonnier. “Tonight we ran into a team that played like us offensively. I thought our defense was pretty good, but they’re big in the post with Dorsten and Schuze. Schulze hasn’t been scoring that many points, but hey, he’s 6’8”. They have those three guys in there, big, bigger, and even bigger.
“And their defense was good. We’ve been shooting around 55% for the year and tonight we shoot 30%. We probably got more offensive rebounds than any time I remember this year, but Jack (Dapore) didn’t shoot it well, Dylan didn’t shoot it well, and those are guys that usually do. Give some credit to Minster. They made us rush a bit with their size inside.”
There’s another irony to Saturday’s game, as explained by Mike McClurg.
“Back in the day I played over at Versailles and played a lot against Spencer. We’ve been friends for a long time,” he added, grinning.
Which surely added something extra to an already cherished win. Motivation, for sure, as Minster faces their own home stretch of the season now intent on building on what could well be their best win of the season.
Spencer Cordonnier shrugged and assured that while there’s no such thing as a good loss, there’s plenty of reason now to “reboot” and move on. Call it a friendly reminder on Saturday…from an old friend.
“I really have nothing to complain about. Our effort was good tonight, we just didn’t shoot it very well. There’s nothing more I could ask for.”
And I believe him. Except when they play Anna next week…something more than 30%!