Fort Recovery left points, tourney hopes and their season on the table, while St. Henry advanced with an impressive second half that sent Minster home in the district semis.
Wapakoneta – Ft. Recovery coach Chris Guggenbiller could be nothing less than coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’ Tuesday after seeing his Ft. Recovery Indians bow out of the district tourney, 57-54, to an athletic group of Commodores from Lima Perry.
“Probably the worst we’ve shot the ball all year,” said Guggenbiller afterwards. But his words hardly describe.
In a hotly contested game that saw the lead change hands an incredible 15 times, the Indians were simply miserable from three-point range, connecting on just 5 of 20 attempts for 25%…20 attempts, that is.
It gets worse.
Overall, the Fort finished the game shooting 35% from the floor, which won’t get you beat every night, but given the right combination of other misses it won’t win you many, either.
The other misses?
With Perry literally inviting Recovery to take the game, turning the ball over 15 times, committing a total of 22 fouls – and giving Fort two shots and the possession with a late technical foul – the Indians missed 10 of their 25 attempts from the free throw line (60%).
They spread it around.
Critical front ends of one-and-ones were missed.
And on two occasions both ends of a two-shot foul were missed.
Still, with 25 seconds remaining and trailing by a point, Recovery had the ball and all the time in the world to get a good look at the rim for what could have been the winning bucket. They never got what they wanted; and Darien Sheffer ended up casting a 25-foot three-point attempt that went wide right.
Game and season (16-7), gone.
“We couldn’t get the ball to the low post on the final possession,” said Guggenbiller. “So we went into our motion offense, couldn’t get anything close, and ended up shooting a 25-footer. From my viewpoint I thought he was going to hit the shot. But unfortunately, it didn’t go in.
Sheffer was devastated…his teammates frustrated after chasing the lead for 32 minutes, taking it seven times only to see a determined Perry offense led by Plummie Gardner (19 points) keep taking it back.
But they had it for the taking, and ended up leaving it at the foul line. And no excuses from Guggenbiller.
“Percentage-wise, this was the poorest we shot the ball all year long, both from the field and the line,” he said, shaking his head. “But you have those nights and you have to find ways to overcome it. We left a lot of points out there…close-range, mid-range, foul line, and all those open threes. We just couldn’t get shots to fall.”
Ft. Recovery’s fall set up what most anticipated to be one of the titanic defensive struggles of the entire tournament in the night’s second game.
St. Henry and Minster both entered the game with the mindset that you can’t lose if they other team can’t score. And for a half…that’s exactly what took place before a 39-point second half paced the Redskins to a 58-48 win.
It was physical, rock ‘em, sock ‘em MAC basketball, that saw Minster take an early 4-0 lead in the first quarter. Four minutes in, and still to score, St. Henry coach Eric Rosenbeck inserted super shooting sub Evan Lefeld to crank the engine of the offense.
Lefeld, who shot five for five from three-point range last Friday in the ‘Skins win over New Knoxville, immediately launched one from the deep corner to get his team on the board.
Still, Minster’s man-to-man defense conceded nothing while St. Henry picked up just enough offensive scraps to got the halftime locker room with a 19-17 lead.
“You gotta’ give Coach Lee and the Minster kids a ton of credit,” said Rosenbeck afterwards. “That’s as well as we’ve been defended since we played Celina. They really put the clamps down.
“But our kids had enough mental toughness to fight through it, created some opportunities in the second half, Mitch Stammen got to the foul line a few times (16), and Evan Lefeld hit some big shots again for us off the bench. And Jesse Niekamp had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Our senior leadership was just awesome for us tonight.”
St. Henry’s 39 points in the second half was akin to a desperate man suddenly finding an oasis.
Evan Lefeld continued his hot shooting, hitting three of give from behind the arc. He finished with 11 points.
Niekamp’s 14 points came from his persistence around the rim; from working hard to make the most of a half dozen offensive rebounds.
Mitch Stammen’s game-high 25 points took a while to emerge. The 6’1” senior missed his first six shot attempts in the game and for the longest time all he got for his effort was being knocked down.
But he got to the line, hitting 13 of 16 attempts for the game (82%), and the more fouls he drew the more aggressive he became in making SURE he got to the line. Left with the choice of conceding the shot or fouling him, Minster was more than obliging.
“I got off to a slow start,” he admitted. “The last two games have been that way and the free throw line is where I’ve got the majority of my points. I’ve got to do a better job of getting my feet set so my shots from the field start going in.
“They (Minster) did a really good job on defense. Not just the guy who was guarding me, but every time we kicked it out to Evan, Paul, Blake or anyone, they were always right there. They play really good team defense.”
Still, for the second game in a row Stammen was want to credit his teammate and fellow senior, Evan Lefeld, for helping ignite the fire that eventually burned through Minster’s effort.
“We needed a spark to get going in the first quarter and he gave it to us with that three-pointer off the bench. He’s knocked down some huge threes lately; he’s been the guy that gets us going.”
Despite their sluggish start, St. Hank, (now 18-6) rallied in the second half to finish with 42% from the field, while Rosenbeck’s own man-to-man defense held Minster under 40%.
Jared Huelsman led the Wildcats with 10 points. Jacob Stechschulte delighted the black and orange following with a couple of three-pointers from the next area code to finish with 9. Josh Nixon added 8, Bryce Schmiesing had 7, Aaron Ernst had 7, and Connor Turnbusch finished with 5. Peter Falk contributed the final two points.
St. Henry moves on to play Lima Perry now on Friday for the district championship, a team with the best record in the bracket (21-3), and another challenge defensively for Rosenbeck, Stammen, and company.
“They like to press and pressure the ball,” said Stammen. “We’ll have to be prepared, strong with the ball, and stay away from turnovers. Our coaches have stressed that all year.”
The Minster kids can look now to baseball season, which starts in about three weeks.
And St. Henry baseball coach John Dorner, himself, was sharking around the locker room after the game, just in case, perhaps. Mitch Stammen is his ace on the pitcher’s mound, and an ace that at least for another game he’ll have to share with Eric Rosenbeck.
But hey, why not another couple of weeks of basketball first? What could it hurt? It’s that time of year.
They only need a couple more wins for an even 20.