Coach Mike Wiss said afterwards that he liked his teams toughness, and grit. They had no other choice Thursday in a 5 point road over St. Henry.
St. Henry, OH – By rights Minster head coach Mike Wiss should have stopped the team bus on the way home to Minster Thursday night to get senior forward Lydia Mescher some ice cream…a pizza…something special…whatever she wanted. She deserved it.
Mescher poured in 19 points in a Wildcats’ 43-38 win over host St. Henry in the MAC’s marquee Thursday game to keep Minster in the thick of the conference race…and to reiterate a point long reserved for MAC basketball. Mescher and company could play as rough and tough as necessary – whatever it took to win.
On this particular night they had no choice.
Nate Uhlenhake’s Redskins came out aggressive, pushed Minster physically to the limit of the official’s whistle from the opening tip, and forced Minster out of any kind of offensive flow – survival-of-the-fittest basketball.
Mescher, and teammate Addie Inskeep (5 pts), took up the challenge, returned it in kind, and by game’s end would score half of their team’s total points, and just as importantly…gave as good as they got, physically.
After trailing early in the opening quarter, Mescher canned a pair of threes on route to a 8-2 run to help Minster to a four-point lead at the break, 14-10.
By the end of the first half Mescher would have 11 points, supported by 5 more from teammate Annie Hemmelgarn, on the way to a 27-21 lead.
St.Henry made the most of Morgan Baumer’s 7 first half points to be within six points at halftime; and those six points proved to be not nearly enough margin for Minster in the third quarter.
As tenacious as Uhlenhake’s ‘Skins were in the first half, they came out in the third quarter and did their best to pitch an eight-minute shutout, containing Mescher, and limiting the ‘Cats to just a bucket by Mescher, one by Inskeep, and one by Adriana Wuebker – 6 points, total!
In the meantime the Redskins used a pair of three-pointers by Molly Wendel and Leah Lefeld to outscore Minster 10-6 quarter, briefly take the lead, and then trail by just 2 points entering the fourth, 33-31.
Afterwards, Mike Wiss would characterize the game as one of “toughness” and “grit”. Nate Uhlenhake admitted as much in describing is own team’s mini-comeback…to be within two points to start the fourth quarter.
“The game is physical, and we know that going in, so that’s what we do in practice. We’re physical with each other to make ourselves better,” said Uhlenhake.
They were well on their way at the start of the fourth quarter, having had that brief lead in the third. Then, Lydia Mescher took over.
She ignited her team with a pair of ‘tough’ buckets in the paint at the outset to push Minster out to a four-point lead.
St.Henry would answer with a pair from Alexis Buschur, as the Redskins upped the intensity of their pressure on defense, but it wasn’t enough. Mescher would end up scoring 6 in the quarter, Anna Larger would add 3 more, and Kayla Lamm contributed a free throw to Minster’s total of 10 points.
Buschur could not get enough help, just 3 points from Ava Homan and Morgan Baumer.
Minster would hold on to outscore St. Henry, 10-7, claiming the 43-38 win.
“I thought we regrouped at halftime, we came out and made our run,” said Uhlenhake. “But we just couldn’t quite get over the hump. Our goal is to limit them to single digits every quarter and we weren’t able to do that.”
One out of the four quarters wasn’t enough.
“Addi Inskeep and Lydia Mescher worked their tails off in the paint tonight,” said Mike Wiss, appreciatively. “And kudos to their two kids, Lefeld and Wendel, for making it a physical MAC battle. And I’m pleased, I guess, with our toughness, because we stress being physical…because it’s the MAC. But we also stress being mentally tough, and tonight I think we grew up a little bit, mentally.
“A close game, a hard-fought battle…I liked our toughness, our grit tonight,” he added. “Our fight was there. We’re not the most skilled in the world, but when we strap it on and we’re ready to play, we’re OK.”
Mescher’s 19 points led all scorers.
For St. Henry, Morgan Baumer led them with 9 points, Leah Lefeld had 8, Alexis Buschur had 7, Ava Homan had 6, Molly Wendel had 5, and Jalynn Everman had 3.
Minster improved to 9-4, overall (3-1 in MAC), while St. Henry dropped to 8-4, overall (4-2 in MAC).
“Like I said, I liked our fight and grit tonight,” smiled Wiss. “I went into the locker room and was jumping up and down with them (the girls). We stress how hard it can be in practice, but they need to see the enjoyment of it, also.”