Their streak of efficiency, defense, and wins continued Monday…St. Henry simply outplayed, and out numbered, Minster to stay in the contention for the MAC.
Minster – You can usually tell the outcome of the game by the length of time it takes the respective coaches to finish their post-game locker room talk and appear for the media.
It took Minster’s Mike McClurg considerably longer – almost 30 minutes!
Without question McClurg had an agenda to cover with this team after the St. Henry Redskins continued their recent run of efficiency on offense – and deprivation defense – to beat Minster 53-38.
The win elevated St. Henry’s record to 14-2 overall, and 4-1 in league play – a game behind Versailles.
The loss dropped Minster to 9-5 overall, but more importantly…in a literal do-or-die scenario to keep pace with for any title consideration, it put the Wildcats at 3-2 in the MAC – two games behind.
It was a moment of smiles and satisfaction for Rosenbeck.
It was a moment of soberness, and in McClurg’s words, “searching for some identity” when he finally popped out of the locker room.
“We knew this was going to be a tough stretch (in our schedule),” said McClurg. “Versailles, St. Henry, Marion Local and Jackson Center, after playing Loramie – we knew this was going to be tough. Right now we’re struggling, particularly on offense. Truthfully, we’re trying to find our identity right now. We’re pushing in some situations, we’re not playing as comfortably on offense as we have in the past. But it’s part of the growth, and that’s what we were just talking about inside. We’ve got to figure some stuff out.”
St. Henry did its part to make the learning part painful, playing perhaps its best defense of the year, denying the post and 6’9″ center Jarod Schulze, while contesting every possession, and literally, every pass.
“From the beginning of the season I thought this was our best defensive effort,” said Rosenbeck. “We really got after them. I thought we were there on the catch, our help-side was strong, and our hands were active. By far this was the best defensive effort of our season.”
Leading 13-9 at the end of the first quarter, the Redskins clamped down to limit the bigger, and more physical Minster to just 6 points in the second quarter.
In the meantime, St. ‘Hank’ was getting into an offensive pattern of sharing the basketball and balanced scoring that included Tyler Schlarman (27 points Saturday against Wapakoneta)…without depending on him.
“I thought we did a good job in controlling Schlarman,” said McClurg. “But it wasn’t enough.”
No, because in addition to Schlarman’s 1o points for the game, Ryan Luttmer, Zach Niekamp, and Devin Huelskamp each chipped in 11 points – four players in double figures amounting to 43 of the team’s 53 total points.
“Zach Niekamp has been playing great lately, and Curtis Ulenhake just had a great weekend,” said Rosenbeck . “It’s not just about making shots, it’s about being able to contribute in other ways, and he (Ulenhake) is getting some rebounds, he beginning to defend better, be more active with his hands, and all those things add up to making us better on defense.”
Minster cut the halftime deficit to just five points midway through the third quarter. But on three successive possessions they then came up empty, failing to score on one and turning the ball over twice. St. Henry took advantage, stretched the lead back to 10 points, and never looked back.
In winning, they out-shot Minster 46% to 32%.
They out-rebounded the Wildcats, 32 to 21.
And, they bested them at the foul line, 66% (10 of 15) to 45% (5 of 11).
Proud as he was of his defense, Eric Rosenbeck could not avoid the inevitable observation…that for the second night in a row his team’s shooting percentage was a direct reflection of their creating good shots, and making good shots. Efficiency!
“The ball movement’s been really good,” he admitted. “We need to clean up our passing a bit, but the spacing on offense has been good and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
St. Henry will now look forward to a home date with St. John’s on Friday…and the elephant in the room – that being a date with unbeaten Versailles a week from Friday. Stay clean against St. John, Parkway and New Bremen, and beat Versailles, and they’ve got a shot at a share of the league title.
For Minster, the outlook is not so optimistic. Mike Ketner led the ‘Cats in scoring with 10 points, while Jarod Schulze had to really work to post 8; and Alex Lemkuhl, Isaac Schmiesing, Cody Frericks, Jack Heitbrink, and Adam Knapke all scored to account for their remaining 20 points.
But importantly, Monday’s loss put Minster’s conference fate in the hands of those contending teams yet to play Versailles (Marion and St. Henry), and McClurg talked about what’s yet to accomplish outside of the league over their remaining seven games.
“At this point it’s all about progressing,” said McClurg. “It’s the journey on which we have to grow. It’s the grind, and we didn’t have a certain record idea in mind. It’s just the question of whether we’re getting better – are we doing the things we need to do in practice to get to a point by season’s end where we’re playing pretty well.
“Obviously we want to go out and win every game. But there’s also the issue of taking care of each other. Are we having fun? Because that’s one of our core values. Are we enjoying this, and right now I don’t think we are.”
Eric Rosenbeck’s and the Redskins’ trip home on route 119 was no doubt a happy one. Winners now of ten games in a row, they control their own destiny and survived the latest gauntlet of keeping within arm’s length of Versailles.
For Mike McClurg and Minster, perhaps they did find some identity in their post-game thirty minutes together. He knows, and they know, they’re going to need it, and quick. They have Marion Local Friday and Jackson Center on Saturday. Having lost three of their last four, theirs is a decidedly different gauntlet…way different!
It’s hard to have fun…when it’s do or die!