The worst kind…Minster squanders a 1o-point lead over the final four minutes of regulation in a 62-57 overtime loss to St. Henry.
Minster, OH – If you asked those streaming for the parking lot following St. Henry’s 62-57 overtime win over Minster Friday night, it’s a good bet that half of them would say that St. Henry won the game…while the other half might grimace and say that Minster simply lost it.
Fighting back from a eight-point halftime deficit, Minster played its best eight quarters of basketball this year in the third quarter to overtake St. Henry, accumulate a 10-point lead at the 4:00 mark of the fourth, and then lost that lead. They simply (well, maybe not simply) lost it.
St. Henry (7-3) took advantage of some poor shot selection, some critical turnovers, opportunistic shooting for its own part, and then a dramatic three-pointer from the wing by Luke Beyke with 4.2 seconds remaining in regulation to ultimately send the game to overtime tied at 53-53.
Mentally and physically drained, Minster was no match in the extra period as St. Henry outscored the Wildcats 9-4 to claim their seventh win of the season, 62-57.
Minster (3-5) is a team that has all the ingredients when healthy – athleticism and size – but the loss of point guard Brogan Stephey for the first month due to a broken arm from football…and the loss of wingman James Niemeyer due to a broken wrist…has made the season’s first month for coach Mike McClurg’s Wildcats a study in patience – a fan base resembling a waiting room for expectant fathers. They’ve been waiting to see the baby!
Stephey recently returned to the lineup, while Niemeyer was cleared to practice this week, and had two days on the court before seeing his first game action Friday night. Their availability between now and the tournament draw is going to greatly impact the lineup, but Friday may have been too much too soon against one of the area’s most tenacious Division IV lineups, and a serious district final contender.
It’s never been a question as to whether Minster could score with Stephey in the lineup, and they proved that against St. Henry’s pressing defense in the first quarter, coming back quickly from a 6-2 deficit to benefit from a pair of Stephey buckets and a three-pointer by Kole Richard to trail 12-11 at the end of the period.
But issues arose early in the second quarter that would haunt throughout the game. Turnovers, and some loose play allowed St. Henry to creep ahead. The shooting of Beyke and teammate Evan Bowers was not answered as the two combined for 11 of the ‘Skins 15 points, and they cruised to the locker room with a 27-19 halftime lead.
But the third quarter turned out to be a complete flip of script. Kole Richard, a 6′ junior guard, came out like he was shot out of a cannon. Scoring on a traditional three-point play to start the quarter, he quickly canned a three-pointer from in front of the Minster bench to cut the lead to four in the first two minutes.
Moreover, teammate Cole Albers got loose in the paint to score a pair of buckets….Stephey scored on a short jumper from the wing…and before you could say Wooden Shoe Minster had outscored St. Henry on 12-4 run, tied the game at 35-35 at the 2:00 mark, and ultimately outscored St. Henry 23-11 for the quarter.
“They’re a really good basketball team, and they have a lot of guys who can light it up,” explained St. Henry coach Eric Rosenbeck, later. “And for us it comes down to defensive stops, which is how we built the lead in the second quarter. We weren’t getting those stops in the third quarter, and guess what…we got stuck on 39 (pts).”
Actually, 38, as Minster went to the sideline between the third and fourth quarter in a state of delirium, as suddenly the reality of the band being back together was something not felt before, or the rare air of confidence.
Richard and Stephey started the fourth as they’d finished the third, scoring 7 quick points between them to eventually extend their advantage to 10 points, 48-38, with 4:00 remaining in the game.
But while Richard and Stephey were carrying Minster, Evan Bowers and Luke Beyke were making sure St. Henry was not lost in the rear-view mirror. Bowers had 9 points at halftime, Beyke had 10, and the pair scored all 11 of St. Henry’s pointa in the third to avoid a complete blackout by the Wildcats.
But throughout the first half Minster had suffered from those turnovers, and the St. Henry backcourt had taken full advantage, stripping the ball away from Stephey, Richard, and unsuspecting others while converting those turnovers into easy transition buckets.
Suddenly, leading by ten and about to put a foot on the throat of St Henry, the turnover bug struck them, and struck them hard.
Stephey was stripped by Logan Link and that became points, the lead down to eight.
Richard was stripped by Hayden Boeckman, and that turnover became points.
The lead was down to six, and after a couple of questionable shots, St. Henry’s Evan Bowers, then Beyke, scored to cut it to 2.
In the span of four critical minutes Minster turned the ball over three times, flipping the momentum back to St. Henry who had crept to within a point, at 51-50. Stephey at last scored on a stickback at the rim to make it 53-50, and with 0:12 on the clock St. Henry came down in full desperation mode. Somehow, some way, Minster lost track of Beyke, standing in front of his own bench. Someone found him with a pass, and in one motion he caught the ball, rose to shoot, and launched a perfect strike to tie the game at 53-53…with 4 seconds left.
“I looked at that shot as it left his hand and it was so flat I thought there was no way it was going in,” said Mike McClurg. “The next thing I knew it was going down.”
The final four minutes were purely anti-climactic. St. Henry scored first, Minster had a couple of empty possessions, and ultimately scored 7 of their final 9 points from the foul line – Hayden Boeckman icing the game with too few seconds, and too many points, to leave any chance for a Minster comeback.
Beyke would finish with 28 points for St. Henry, while Bowers countered with 20.
Kole Richard scored a team-high 18 for Minster, with Stephey adding 15, and Cole Albers had 11.
But points, as it turned out, didn’t tell the tale of how the game got to overtime, or how St. Henry arose like Lazarus to win it. 18 turnovers did that to Minster, including 6 strips of the ‘Cats backcourt, resulting in at least 10 points – the difference in the game.
“We have to be able to speed teams up, turn ’em over, and score off turnovers for our offense to take off. And I agree that the steals and points in transition were a difference in the game,” added Rosenbeck, afterwards. “I loved everything I saw over the last four minutes. Our guys did not hang their heads, Logan Link getting a couple of steals helped flip the momentum, and unselfish team play…guys making the extra pass instead of trying to get theirs (points). ”
On Beyke’s dramatic three-pointer at the end….
“I can’t tell you how proud of Luke Beyke and what he’s become as a basketball player, but I can’t single him out,” added Rosenbeck. “It’s all eight of them. They’re a really tight group, like brothers, and they’re hard on each other like brothers. It was everybody tonight.”
Asked how he’d sleep, given the outcome and how it came about?
“A helluva’ lot better than if we had lost,” he smiled.
Mike McClurg was succinct with his post-game statements, but it was clearly a painful loss to absorb.
“I don’t know if you can print what happened to us,” he said, managing a smile. Asked if his team had suffered a mental or physical breakdown, he didn’t duck the question.
“I don’t know…” he began. “I don’t know if we’re mature enough to handle that yet. That’s honestly how I feel, because we told them that we wanted better shots…because we went through a stretch there where we took some bad shots. We just wanted to get good shots for the next three minutes when we were up by 10. We weren’t aggressive and we got back on our heels. We turned it over…”, his voice trailing off.
“Did the game wear us out? Yeah, we were tired, but that didn’t cause what happened at the end. Our effort was there, we fought them tooth and nail the whole way. That’s a good basketball team, what…with eight seniors? I think we gave them everything they wanted. But at the end of the day, we didn’t make shots we should have made, and we turned the ball over in spots when we shouldn’t have turned it.”
Standing just sixty feet apart – the two locker rooms – the difference in mood between the visitors and the home team could have been measured in miles. And McClurg, one of the true straight shooters you’ll ever meet, was asked, like Eric Rosenbeck, how he would sleep Friday after such a wrenching loss.
“Probably not very good,” he said without pause.
And he meant it.