Minster looked well on its way to a MAC title clinching win at halftime Thursday night. State-ranked Fort Recovery made a second half run, before a junior saved the day on Senior night.
Minster – It was not your usual Thursday night in Minster.
First, because of illness at Fort Recovery, the junior varsity game was cancelled. That deprived Minster a chance at another win, but hey, 21-0 isn’t too bad. The junior varsity team was honored with a standing ovation after the first quarter of the varsity contest.
Second, it was Senior Night for the Wildcats. Lindsay Roetgerman, Hayley Baumer, Rosie Westerbeck, Ali Borgerding and Savannah Luthman were honored in pre-game ceremonies. A group as accomplished off the floor as they are on, they received a much-deserved standing ovation of their own.
Then there was basketball. The hometown Wildcats, 19-2 on the season and fifth in the final D-IV poll of the season, needing a win to clinch their second straight MAC Championship, against the 16-2 Fort Recovery Indians, 8th in the D-III poll this week and looking for a victory that would give Versailles a share of the title with Minster.
A near-perfect second quarter staked the Wildcats to a big halftime lead, but Recovery fought back, trimming a 17-point deficit to five in the fourth quarter. That’s win junior Alli Fischer came up big, scoring her teams’ final seven points in a 48-42 win.
“We are as good as our seniors are, and we have a great group of seniors,” said Minster coach Mike Wiss after the championship trophy presentation. “These girls lay it on the line every day. They give everything they have toward what we want to do.”
“We were able to come back in the second half,” said Indians head coach Brian Patch. “Our kids didn’t quite stay to script in the second quarter, which is why it got ugly. We missed a couple of chances in the fourth quarter on loose balls and offensive rebounds, but I love the way our kids battled back and made Minster earn the win.”
Not only is it the Wildcats second straight title, it’s the second straight year that they have run the table, a perfect 9-0 in MAC. Doesn’t get much better than that.
The Indians looked early like they were going to be around all night. Grace Thien and Jocelyn Kaiser hit first quarter threes, and Recovery led 14-10 at the break.
Minster took over in the second quarter, and they did it with defense. Thien hit her second three to give Recovery a 19-16 lead, but senior Hayley Baumer countered immediately with a three of her own to tie it for the fourth time in the half. It was the last time Recovery saw the lead all night.
Aided by 8 Indians turnovers caused by a ferocious defense, Minster scored the final 17 points of the half to take a 33-19 lead into the locker-room. At the break, Baumer had 8 points, while Rosie Westerbeck, junior Taylor Kogge and sophomore Courtney Prenger all had 7 to lead the balanced Minster attack.
“We always say it doesn’t have to be perfect, and we aren’t going to be perfect,” Wiss explained. “We try to bring effort and enthusiasm to the gym every day. “We got things going at our tempo with our pressure in the second quarter, and they did the same thing to us in the fourth.”
A three by Ali Borgerding pushed the lead to 17 and the run to 20-0, but that was the only basket of the third quarter for the Wildcats. The Indians couldn’t take advantage, however, and the lead was still ten after three.
Thien single-handedly kept the Indians in the game. The 5-9 junior made six three-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter as Fort Recovery narrowed the lead. That was when Minster junior Alli Fischer made her presence known.
The 5-7 guard, who has one of the highest arcing shots in the area, hadn’t scored in the first three and a half quarters. But she didn’t hesitate when she found herself open deep in the left corner with her team up 7. Her three-pointer hit nothing but cord and the Wildcats were up by ten.
Fischer also added four free throws down the stretch as the Wildcats held on to finish the regular season 20-2.
“Players have to make plays, and Alli certainly did that for us in the fourth quarter” Wiss exclaimed. “That three was big and so were those free throws.”
“It’s kind of a relief,” said 5-10 senior Rosie Westerbeck. “We have worked since the end of last season to get back to this place. It’s not easy to win the MAC and it shows how much effort we have put into this. It’s a great team accomplishment from the players, and coaches to the JV team that makes us work every day in practice.”
Minster was led by Prenger’s 9 points, while Baumer finished with 8 and Westerbeck, Kogge and Fischer all had 7. Thien finished with 22 for the Indians, and Whitney Will added 9.
“Grace is a big-shot maker,” praised Patch. “She has been playing well for us. I thought a couple that she missed in the fourth quarter were going to go down too. When she sets her feet, she has a chance to knock them down. I was happy with the way she moved without the ball tonight, and her teammates did a good job of finding her.”
After taking just 11 shots in the first half because of all the turnovers, Recovery finished 14 of 34 for 41%. Minster was just 3 of 15 in the second half and didn’t have a two point basket after intermission, but still finished at 44% on 17 of 39. The Indians, thanks to Thien, were 7 of 12 from the arc to Minster’s 6 of 19. The Wildcats were 8 of 13 from the line for 62% to 7 of 9 for 78% for the Indians.
Recovery out-rebounded the Wildcats 19-17 and had 16 turnovers to Minster’s 11, 8 of which were in the second half.
“The second half was…I’m not sure what the second half was,” Wiss said with a laugh and a shake of his head. “You have to give Fort Recovery a lot of credit for that. That’s what playing in this league is like. The toughness and physicality…you hear it all the time, but it’s the honest to God truth. It’s a fact.”
Westerbeck said it was tough to get back to basketball after the Senior Night ceremony.
“In the second quarter we finally got it going. We are all good friends and we know that isn’t going to end after this basketball season. That’s evident on the court. It’s our last time playing here, but it’s not our last time playing together. We are going to be together for a long time, I’m hoping anyway.”
The Wildcats open tournament play February 25th against the Ada-Hardin Northern winner. Wiss said his team has work to do before then.
“We need to get Lindsay healthy. (Roetgerman missed the game with a brace on her left wrist.) I think we need to go back and start doing the little things again. When you go 20-2 and go 9-0 in the league two years in a row, it’s easy to forget where you came from. It’s my job to make sure that we don’t think too highly of ourselves, that we stay grounded. Our seniors are great people, they come from great families. We have great chemistry on this team. It’s a pleasure to come to practice every day.”