Wednesday, March 9th, 2011
By Randy Bruns
Rangers fall in OT; Minster moves on
Division IV Boys District at Wapakoneta High School
WAPAKONETA - The two Division IV district semifinal games played at Redskin Gymnasium on Tuesday night showed why it doesn't get much better than high school tournament basketball.
In the first game, the Spencerville Bearcats overcame a 13-point deficit in the third quarter before rallying to defeat the New Knoxville Rangers 60-57 in overtime.
The nightcap saw the Minster Wildcats perform some fourth-quarter magic for the third straight week, as they buried the St. John's Blue Jays 51-39 after out-scoring them by 19 points in the final frame.
Spencerville (14-8) and Minster (17-5) advance to Friday's 7 p.m. district final, with a trip to next week's regional tournament at Kettering Fairmont on the line. The Bearcats defeated the Wildcats by nine points in their regular-season meeting in December.
Midwest Athletic Conference champion New Knoxville bows out of the tournament with an 18-4 ledger while St. John's ends its season with a 10-13 mark.
Spencerville 60, New Knoxville 57 (OT)
Spencerville 60, New Knoxville 57 (OT)
The lesson of this game may seem a bit trite, but it still applies: Never stop fighting until the final buzzer sounds.
The Bearcats overcame all kinds of adversity in this one, including a double-digit deficit in the second half and a pair of key contributors fouling out in the fourth quarter; but they hung around and came up big when it counted.
The Rangers thoroughly controlled the game in the first half and shot out of the gates quickly in the second when Brian Bambauer and Marcus Reineke hit back-to-back three-pointers. Reineke then followed with a pair from the foul line to give his team a 30-17 advantage, and it looked like the Bearcats were in serious trouble.
When Jake Allen drove the lane for a bucket that gave the Rangers a 34-23 lead with three minutes left in the third, it didn't seem all that significant, but it certainly was. It was the last field goal the Rangers would tally for the next 10 minutes of play.
While New Knoxville struggled badly on the offensive end, Spencerville whittled its deficit by doing dirty work on the glass and converting its second-chance opportunities.
Cole Roberts stuck back a teammate's miss to get the Bearcats within three to begin the final frame, and it was a tooth and nail battle the rest of the way.
The Bearcats took their first lead since the game's opening minutes on an Eli Bowers jumper with two minutes left, and they later held a three-point advantage with 17 seconds left.
Cody Horstman hit a pair from the charity stripe to bring the Rangers back within one, and after getting fouled, Bowers made just one of two freebies to give the Rangers one more chance.
With MAC Player of the Year Reineke fouled out, Horstman took it upon himself to take the final shot, as the senior drove the lane and scored in traffic with four seconds left to force overtime.
Horstman gave the Rangers a one-point overtime lead when he scored on a spin move, but the Bearcats grabbed the lead back with two free throws. Then after a miss from the line, the Bearcats got a big play from an unexpected player when 5-foot-9 Devon Cook snared the rebound and put it back in.
New Knoxville later pulled to within one on a trey by Horstman, but Bowers answered with a pair of free throws with 2.5 seconds left. Bambauer's half-court heave at the buzzer was tantalizingly close, but it bounced off the rim to give Spencerville the upset.
"The theme of the night for us was defend and rebound," said Spencerville coach Kevin Sensabaugh. "The first time we played them (a 17-point Bearcat win in December) we shot about 53 percent from the three-point line, and I knew we weren't going to do that again. I just wanted to make sure we got every rebound possible."
The Bearcats did indeed dominate the glass, winning the rebounding battle by a lopsided 42-28 margin.
New Knoxville coach Kort Fledderjohann pointed to his team's long drought from the field as the main culprit in the loss.
"The third quarter came and we just couldn't score," said Fledderjohann. "We missed some good looks and just couldn't put it in the hole. You've got to give Spencerville credit because they played good defense and they've got good, hard-nosed kids. The last three or four weeks we've struggled to shoot from the perimeter, and tonight we didn't hit any until the end when we had to shoot them."
Horstman had 17 points and Reineke notched 14 in leading the Rangers in their final game as seniors.
Trevor Hardeman paced the Bearcats with a game-high 23 markers.
Minster 51, St. John's 39
Minster 51, St. John's 39
Wildcats' coach Mike Lee denies that he possesses any special secret to the fourth quarter, but his Wildcats certainly have quite a streak going in the final frame.
Dating back to their regular-season finale, the Wildcats have outscored their opponents 65-15 in the fourth quarter of their past three games, turning deficits of eight, three, and seven points into victories by double digits each time.
"Don't ask me for the formula for the fourth quarter," joked Lee. "If that's your first question, you can move on to the second."
If Minster can keep this up, people are going to keep asking.
The Wildcats started the final stanza trailing after Curtis Geise hit an off-balance three-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer to give the Blue Jays a 38-31 advantage.
Just as they've done for the past two weeks, the Wildcats went to a three-quarter court trap to get the Blue Jays out of rhythm, and it worked to perfection once again.
Doug Huber started the quarter by scoring on a post move, and Ross Heitkamp converted a steal into a layup to pull Minster to within three.
Heitkamp then followed with an NBA range three-pointer to tie the score at 38-apiece and forced a timeout by St. John's.
Geise sank one of two free throws to put the Blue Jays back in front by one, but it would turn out to be the last point they would score on the night.
Huber scored from the low post to put the Wildcats back on top and Heitkamp followed with another bucket before Adam Niemeyer provided the back-breaker. With his team up 42-39 and trying to burn some clock, the sophomore tossed up a three-pointer that looked to be ill-advised before it dropped through the basket to give the Wildcats a commanding 45-39 advantage.
"That was one of those 'What are you doing?' and the next thing you know we're cheering," said Lee of Niemeyer's bomb. "We were pretty much in a 10-pass or 15-pass mode at that time, but he had his feet set and that's a sophomore growing up a lot come tournament time."
Without revealing any special secrets, Lee did point to his team's pressure defense as the key to the fourth-quarter surge.
"It's not that we got a lot (of turnovers) from our pressure, but our rotation pattern has been solid," said Lee. "Ultimately I think this was the perfect example of a little bit of wear and tear and we got them out of sync. Some of the shots that they were hitting early on started to not hit and then we just did a better job on the glass."
Heitkamp had a stellar offensive night for the Wildcats, as he led his team in scoring with 23 points while going 8-for-11 from the field. He was joined in double digits by Devon Poeppelman, who tallied 12 points.
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