Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Poeppelman's hot hand guides Wildcats to win
Division IV Sectional at Coldwater
By Randy Bruns
Minster's Austin Knapke, 5, tries to penetrate past New Knoxville's Andrew Arnet. . .
COLDWATER - Though they were playing without a key cog, the Minster Wildcats turned in an efficient performance to begin postseason play on Tuesday night at The Palace.
With leading scorer Adam Niemeyer sidelined by illness for the second straight game, the Wildcats broke through in the second quarter and rode the hot hand of Devon Poeppelman to a 58-48 sectional semifinal victory over the New Knoxville Rangers.
Minster, now 10-11 on the year, moves on to play in Friday's sectional final at 6:15 p.m. against the top-seeded Fort Recovery Indians (18-2). New Knoxville ends its season with a 9-12 mark.
In the early going, it appeared that the two teams would reprise their regular-season contest from three weeks ago, which the Wildcats won by a scant four points. The lead see-sawed back and forth in the first quarter with the Rangers getting 10 points from senior Lucas Leffel while the Wildcats got scoring from six different players.
The game was still tight midway through the second quarter when Andrew Knapke canned a three-pointer to give Minster a 20-18 lead.
It seemed like the teams would continue to trade the lead back and forth, but instead the Wildcats went on a run to end the first half that would prove to be the difference in the game.
Following a free throw by the Rangers, Devon Poeppelman started to catch fire for the Wildcats. The senior hit a turnaround jumper and followed with a three-ball to put the Wildcats up by six. After a bucket by teammate Ethan Wolf, Poeppelman sank a free throw to give his team a 28-19 lead at halftime.
"We got stagnant," said New Knoxville's coach Kort Fledderjohann of his team's late first-half woes. "We rode Lucas' hot hand early and a couple of guys just got in the habit of standing and watching. We just didn't have any movement."
The Rangers pulled within five points early in the third quarter, but a trey from Wolf helped the Wildcats build their lead back to double digits for the rest of the quarter.
Minster's bulge grew to 14 points midway through the final frame, but Leffel responded with a pair of treys to get New Knoxville within eight points. Minster was in the double bonus, though, and did well enough from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the win.
The Wildcats had been struggling with poor shooting for most of the season but they seemed to find a cure for at least one night, as they connected on 16-of-34 (47 percent).
"It's a nice time of the year to be doing that," commented Minster's coach Mike Lee. "That's been our bugaboo for the majority of the season, but when you shoot the ball well the kids loosen up a little bit and we got into some things offensively. We got some contributions from several different kids which is nice to see this time of year."
Poeppelman was the lead contributor for the Wildcats as he scored a game-high 23 points, thanks in part to a 9-for-10 performance from the free-throw line. The Rangers were led by Leffel's 22 points and 10 points from Jake Allen.
"We knew Lucas could come out and get us 17 (points) a game and Jake has had the hot hand the last month," said Fledderjohann. "But the games where we've succeeded in were the games where the young guys stepped up and knocked down shots and tonight it just didn't happen."