Double figures offense from Baylen Blockberger and Luke Schwieterman, and suffocating defense helped Coldwater continue its undefeated run in the MAC, and looked like a team capable of taking on all comers.
Coldwater, OH – Except for a slow start on offense, perhaps, there was nothing not to like, or even question, about the 11-3 Coldwater Cavaliers Friday night.
Offense, defense, depth, competitive, and versatile…they showed they had what they needed, when they needed it, in a 58-42 win over Parkway with at least a stake of the MAC lead on the line. Parkway entered the game with a record of 9-4, overall, and 2-1 in league play, looking to hand Nick Fisher’s Cavaliers their first league loss.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively,” said Parkway coach Doug Hughes. “They turned us over, which is uncharacteristic of our team. We had too many empty possessions, they’re athletic, they have size…and they just created some problems for us.”
He sounded like a man surprised, in fact, which is surprising in a league like the MAC where nearly everyone is someone’s cousin, and if they’re not they at least know each other’s basketball roster and record like the back of their hand. The surprise of the area in Division III with their 11-3 record, there really is no surprise given the history of titles, athletes, and athletic competitiveness you come to expect when you play…Coldwater!
But it took ’em a while. To Hughes’ point about too many empty possessions, the first quarter looked more like mixed martial arts than basketball as both teams suffered turnovers and empty possessions – basketball without flow – and ran up and down the court taking turns giving the ball back to each other. Not until a Luke Schwieterman bucket at the 6:00 mark did Coldwater take an 8-7 lead, and built that margin to 10-7 by the end of the quarter.
Then Schwieterman, a 6’7″ senior, began to find his sea legs in the second quarter, scoring 9 quick points on a variety of shots, including a 3-pointer, on his way to a 15-point first half and a 25-19 Coldwater lead at the break.
“It took us a while,” said Coldwater’s Fisher. “But I was thrilled with our defensive effort. We could have been better on the boards in the first half, but the effort on defense was there. And Luke’s presence inside made a difference, plus the fact that he can step out and shoot it, as well as put the ball on the floor and score.”
Schwieterman was hardly finished, as he did put the ball on the floor for 1o points in the third quarter, stepped outside when he wanted to, and when Parkway fouled the Cavaliers’ big man, he went to the line and canned 10 of 10 attempts. He would finish with a game-high 25 points.
Parkway, however, was anything but through. The Panthers fought to cut into that halftime deficit, only to fall victim to the turnover bug again in the second half, at inconvenient times. Ethan Pond gave them a lift with a lone third quarter three-pointer, and Trevor Stearns ignited briefly to score five points, but Schwieterman’s 10 points trumped the collective 10 points from Parkway for the quarter as Coldwater extended their lead to eleven points, 40-29.
Still, eleven points means nothing in the day of the three-point shot, and Parkway hit a couple of them in the fourth (Caiden Berry and Brayden Bruns) to maintain hope.
But Coldwater’s Baylen Blockberger trumped those Parkway 3’s, and their hopes, suddenly going off for 13 of his game total of 17 points…which included back-to-back-to-back three pointers on consecutive possessions at the 4:00 minute mark to all but crush any thoughts of a Panther comeback. The Cavalier junior, who scored just two points before halftime, benefited from some searched-for flow in the offense, missing in the first half. He owned the final eight minutes.
“Baylen really works at it,” said Fisher of Blockberger’s three-point outburst. “He’s up here in the evening after practice working on his shot, so it doesn’t surprise me. What I was proud of, though…he was struggling and really hard on himself over the first half. And we’ve talked about letting the game come to him, because he’s that kind of player, and I thought he did an unbelievable job in the second half of letting the game come to him.”
Schwieterman led all scorers with his 25, while Blockberger’s 17 proved to be the perfect complement. Owen Kunk contributed 6, Miles Pottkotter had 3, and Brady Lefeld, Will Barry, and Cody Depweg each had 2 points. Caleb Schroer tossed in a free throw for the 58th points.
For Parkway, Trevor Stearns led them with 11, Trent Rollins had 7, Caiden Berry and Brayden Bruns each had 5, Wyatt Carpenter had 4, Devon Crouch and Ethan Pond each scored 2 points, and all of that totaled 42.
After its slow start, Coldwater shot 48% from the floor, while Parkway never really warmed to the moment, shooting 39% for the game.
Impressively, while Coldwater is athletic, versatile, big, and competitively experienced, the thing they did best Friday was play through their sloppiness, brought on, in part, by some good defense by Parkway.
“And we’ve had games early in the year where we never were able to play through it, like tonight,” said Nick Fisher, afterwards. “We pulled it out by focusing more on the defensive side of things (in the first half), but I thought as the game wore on we did a much better job of that. Some of that was their defense, but it’s something we’ve been working on in practice. We try to run our stuff like we’re capable of running it, and we did a lot better job of it in the second half. We finally found some flow.
“Sometimes you do what you gotta’ do, and our open offense really is pretty open. And early in the year some of our sets and patterns really weren’t very good. Tonight, I felt like they were much better.”
It’s true that players win games, while coaches talk about it, afterwards. And rarely do you find someone more appreciative of the skills and work ethic of his players than Nick Fisher.
On a night when Delphos St. John edged Versailles, 49-47, to remain unbeaten in MAC play – to share that conference lead with the Cavaliers – he was perfectly content in the moment. They had played through some adversity. They had played like they practice. Key players were patient to let the game come to them. And they took advantage.
And one more basketball axiom, about games being won at the foul line. The Cavaliers won it by 16 points, and hit 20 of 23 from the charity stripe.
Fisher, one of the great guys in high school coaching, was smiling, post-game.
His team is for real.
Nothing really not to like…or even question!