Friday, February 16th, 2007
By Gary R. Rasberry
Minster comes up with upset special
MINSTER - The only thing standing in the way of the St. John's Blue Jays posting their first undefeated regular season since the 1999-2000 season was a Minster squad that gave undefeated Anna all it could handle on Saturday before the Rockets won the game to go to 20-0.
The Wildcats definitely didn't want to be win number 20 for another team.
Minster led early, only to see St. John's tie things up in the waning seconds of regulation to force overtime. The Wildcats took over the extra frame, blemishing the Blue Jays' ledger with a 39-35 decision at the Wildcat Gym on Thursday night.
Even with the loss, the Blue Jays, ranked fourth in Division III in the final Associated Press state poll, claimed an outright Midwest Athletic Conference title - the first conference title since the 2001-02 season - in going 19-1 overall and 8-1 in the MAC. The Wildcats, ranked 13th in the Division IV poll, enter tournament play at 15-5 on the season and 6-3 in the conference.
A slow first half saw Minster hold the Blue Jays to under 10 points, with the Wildcats leading 15-9.
"I was just pleased with our man-to-man (defense)," said Minster coach Nann Stechschulte, who started her team out in a zone but quickly changed to man-to-man. "I thought that was as active and vocal as we've been in terms of communicating. There's a lot of motion in their offense. ... Overall, the girls realAly identified their weapons."
St. John's trailed by as many as nine points in the third quarter before Alisha Byrne was able to get open to hit some big three-pointers pulling the Blue Jays back into the game. St. John's cut the deficit to 23-18 at the end of three quarters and a Kim Miller basket early in the fourth got the Blue Jays to within three points at 23-20.
The teams traded baskets until the 2:18 mark in regulation when Jeanne Bockey hit a bunny to cut the Minster lead to 29-28. Danae Spieles made it a three-point game after the Wildcats slowed things down with a driving bucket with 1:27 to go.
Minster started going to the foul line as St. John's was forced to foul with under a minute left to play. Nikki Wente missed the front end of the one-and-bonus with 38.6 seconds left, but St. John's could not take advantage.
Jenna Blackburn nailed two free throws with 23.4 seconds left to make it 33-29. Brittany Pohlman got the long-distance pass and scored with 17.1 seconds to cut it to 33-31.
After a timeout, Blackburn went to the line again with 14.6 seconds left. This time, however, she missed the first throw as Sarah Clark rebounded for the Jays. Byrne got down in the corner and swished the 12-footer to tie the game. Minster's last-chance attempt to win in regulation fell short, sending the game into overtime.
"We knew Byrne could hit that," said Stechschulte, talking about the three-pointers and the tying basket. "We let her get loose a couple of times. That let them catch momentum, unfortunately. We were just fighting for our life at the end (of regulation)."
"We could have quit and given up," said St. John's coach Dan Grothouse. "We hung in there and were able to force overtime. Even though things weren't going well and Minster had control. We were able to battle back."
Minster struck quickly, Jodie Quinter scored 17 seconds into the extra session to put Minster up a deuce and it appeared that Clark got the equalizer, but was called for a charge.
The score stayed 35-33 for nearly two minutes before Lisa Muhlenkamp scored on a short jumper for Minster with 1:42 to go. Clark got the Jays to within two at 37-35, but a free throw each from Quinter and Blackburn allowed the Wildcats to put the game away.
"Minster played a heckuva defensive game," said Grothouse. "They did a great job. I'm not sure we really came to battle in a MAC game like we normally do on a Thursday night. I don't think we came with the same intentions that Minster had. They came after it early."
"I talked about using this as a stepping stone," said Stechschulte. "Using the momentum and building on that.
"It's a good win. We're going to enjoy it tonight and go back to work tomorrow."
Quinter paced the Wildcats with 12 points and Blackburn added 10 for Minster while Byrne was the only Blue Jay in double figures, scoring 11.
Minster is at New Bremen on Tuesday, playing Spencerville in the second game of the Division IV sectional while St. John's has a week off, playing the winner of Parkway and Paulding on Feb. 24 at Van Wert in the Division III sectional.
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Mostly cloudy, showers