Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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Behind torrid outside shooting and the low post presence of Andy Brunet, Coldwater reminded the rest of the MAC that they’re so much more than just football!

Coldwater – It may have been the best regular season high school basketball game I’ve seen in a decade – football state champion Coldwater (Div. V) hosting neighboring, and fellow football state champion  Ft. Recovery (Div. VII) Friday night, in a game that had it all.

– An electric atmosphere, Coldwater’s “Palace” packed to the rafters with 2,000-plus fans.

– Outstanding offense by both teams, collectively shooting 50% from the floor for the game.

– Athleticism the likes of which you rarely see…from both teams.

– Top individual performances, and not by just one or two. Together, the two teams had ten different players that scored in double figures.

– And a thrilling finish. With five different lead changes the game came down to the last minute before anyone could guess the outcome. EVERYBODY STAYED!

mcsobers_embedFor the record, Coldwater (8-4) won it, 85-80, thanks in large part to a clutch 3-point bomb from the corner by Jack Hemmelgarn in the final minute of play that broke a 76-76 tie and gave the Cavaliers that one last lead that Ft. Recovery could not overcome.

“We just didn’t have enough at the end to match them,” said Indians coach Chris Guggenbiller. “It was a great basketball game…they just made more plays than we did.”

But first, before any details of the game…a word about the collective decorum of an emotionally packed gym, a capacity crowd representing both communities, that despite the wrenching turns of the game acted with perfect respect for the participants…and each other. There were no incidents, no fights, no need for security.

Bodies flew on the basketball floor. There were bloodied noses. And when the whistle blew, the kids playing helped each other up.

I hasten to make the point. It was an example of how people, kids and adults, should act at a basketball game. Well done!

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Hotly contested...Recovery's Macaiah Cox and Caleb Martin pin Neal Muhlenkamp's shot attempt.

Hotly contested…Recovery’s Macaiah Cox and Caleb Martin pin Neal Muhlenkamp’s shot attempt.

As for the game itself, it was a statement made by both teams, but particularly by Coldwater for the fact of an emergent performance by a team so highly-touted prior to the season, but lost in the muddle of having lost four times in its first eleven games while making the transition from football.

“These guys are just now getting their basketball legs,” said Cavaliers coach Mike Bruns afterwards. “It takes a while.”

But never a doubt about their competitive zeal. On their coming out night, the Cavaliers featured balanced scoring and scintillating outside shooting, connecting on 12 of 22 three-point attempts (54%), and 52% shooting overall.

Aaron Harlamert, the all-state wide receiver, led the with 20 points, and 18 of them came in the second half…unstoppable at one point shooting the “three”.

6’9” Andy Brunet, was unstoppable in the paint, adding 16 points, but more importantly, creating space for the other shooters when he drew double-teams in the low post.

Dylan Thobe scored 16 points, blistering the nets with four three-pointers.

Neal Muhlenkamp scored 15, and kept Coldwater in the game during an impressive offensive barrage by Ft. Recovery in the game’s first eight minutes.

And Jack Hemmelgarn, the state’s Division V Player of The Year in football, quietly added 12, including the afore-mentioned three-pointer that ultimately broke Recovery’s back.

But to wit……

Chase Bruns got Recovery off to a torrid start with four first half three-pointers.

Chase Bruns got Recovery off to a torrid start with four first half three-pointers.

Ft. Recovery was just as impressive, hitting 45% from the floor overall, and 49% from behind the arc. They answered Coldwater’s five in “dubs” with five of their own.

Chase Bruns was on fire in the first half, connecting on four of seven three-pointers, and finished with 19 points…and just three in the second half.

Macaiah Cox battled in the paint with Andy Brunet and finished with 11 points.

Matt Bihn dialed up 10 points of his own, and was perfect from the foul line.

Brandon Schoen caught fire from behind the arc, and for a time matched Harlamert shot for shot.

And Caleb Martin, a state champion football quarterback in his own right, found every way he could to chip in 16 points to his team’s total of 80.

“It was just a matter of the players taking over the game,” added Mike Bruns. “I told them in the huddle, it’s their game now. I can’t control the outcome. Big players step up to make big plays in games like this, and they did.

“Look at the balanced scoring. And Aaron Harlamert. He scored just two points in the first half and ended up with 20 for the game. Jack Hemmelgarn really stepped it up. He was calm and ran the show for us…and hit the shot at the end that gave us the last lead. It was frustrating at times…they tried to press us and it got to us…but I couldn’t be happier with how we responded. Offensively, I think we played about as well as possible.”

mrshoppe_sidebar_284x284Defensively, there were some regrettable moments, on back cuts to the basket that Recovery found repeatedly, but you can’t take everything away, either. And Bruns, Martin and Schoen were giving Coldwater plenty to think about through the first three quarters.  Recovery actually led at the half, 40-38.

The trio repeatedly made big shots that would either cut into the Cavaliers’ second half advantage, or take the lead at the 6:00 mark of the third quarter.

From Chris Guggenbiller: “We had enough to win tonight, but they just had a little bit more. Say this, it was not a matter of one team making a mistake down the stretch, it was a matter of the other team just making more plays.

“You look at Jack Hemmelgarn and the shot he made at the end. He’s probably their “five” man in terms of offense they expect, and he makes that three out of the corner and that was big. That was the one more play that they made and we didn’t.”

Jack Hemmelgarn's three from the corner gave Coldwater the last lead...and the game.

Jack Hemmelgarn’s three from the corner gave Coldwater the last lead…and the game.

The next-to-last guy in the Cavaliers’ dressing room after the game was Hemmelgarn, who in the manner typical of his football success, was appreciative of the game and the outcome just for opportunity to be a part of it…and to see it.

“The atmosphere was great, a ton of fans from both schools and that’s what you’d expect for an undefeated team in the MAC. The fans got into it and it was a lot of fun.

“Both teams shot the ball well. We made big threes and they made big threes. Gotta’ give a lot of credit to Andy and the night he had because when they doubled on him it created open spaces for the shooters. They doubled down on him there at the end and the ball got kicked to me in the corner. It was pretty open and I made the shot…but I give credit to him for that, too.”

The additional points that sealed the win were made at the foul line, but for anyone who might have forgotten about Coldwater’s considerable attributes in size and athleticism – who might yet overlook them as a serious contender come tournament time – think again.

They won’t shoot 55% from three point range every night, but they don’t have to. Andy Brunet showed Friday that he’s more than a capable “Plan B”, or even “Plan A”.

They won’t always have five players score in double figures, but they won’t have to. Give Recovery some credit for forcing the issue by scoring 80 points of their own. Coldwater simply showed that they’re capable of keeping pace.

MAC_logo2insetAnd Ft. Recovery, now 9-3, is one of the more athletic challenges anyone will find in small-school basketball. Some nights your athletes have to come to play, and that’s exactly how Coldwater won Friday. I think that’s what Mike Bruns said, actually.

And for all who saw it – who were apart of such a special scene – it might be another ten years before you, or I,  see one better.

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