Saturday, February 28th, 2015

'Skins win MAC outright

By Dave Stilwell
Photo by Mark Pummell/The Daily Standard

St. Henry's Jesse Niekamp, right, has his shot blocked by Coldwater's Andy Brunet during Friday's game at the Palace.

COLDWATER - St. Henry rode a red hot start to a 68-39 victory over Coldwater and an outright Midwest Athletic Conference Championship Friday night at the Palace.
The Redskins hit their first four shots of the game, three of which were behind the three-point line, on their way to shooting 73 percent in the first quarter and opening up an early double digit lead.
"Not the way you want to start against the top team in the MAC," Coldwater coach Mike Bruns said. "When the shots are falling, it seems like their kids get confidence in all areas of the game and things snowballed for us.
"We stood around a little on defense that allowed them to get some open shots, but credit St. Henry for shooting well," Bruns added.
Leading 20-10 at the end of eight minutes, St. Henry forced a string of Coldwater turnovers and opened the second quarter with a 13-2 run for a 33-12 lead.
"To hit the threes early really spaced them out and allowed us the opportunity to get the advantage," St. Henry coach Eric Rosenbeck said. "And defensively we really hawked the ball, especially in the second quarter. That helped us build on the lead."
Jesse Niekamp hit a baseline jumper midway through the second quarter to become the eighth different Redskin to score in the game.
"It was a great team effort tonight," Rosenbeck said. "In fact, this might have been our best team win of the year, because I can't think of a single kid that didn't have a solid game."
St. Henry shot 52 percent from behind the three-point line (12-of-23) with seven different players making at least one three-pointer.
"They were diversified. It wasn't just the (Ryan) Mikesell show tonight," Bruns said. "They had quite a few scorers and that's what you have to do at this point in the season - get everyone involved in the offense."
Mikesell was six points below his season average but still paced the Redskins with 17 points and 11 rebounds. A.J. Niekamp followed with 15 and Mitch Stammen scored 10.
St. Henry outscored Coldwater 15-6 to start the third quarter, opening up a 29-point lead that the Cavaliers would never threaten.
The Redskins, ranked third in the final Division III state poll, wrapped up its first outright MAC title since 1995 with a 9-0 league mark to go along with a 20-2 overall record.
"If you told me at the beginning of the season that we'd get the type of senior leadership I've seen this season, then I would have predicted we would be right here," Rosenbeck said. "I wasn't sure how strong we'd be, but with (seniors) Ryan Mikesell, Caleb Bender, A.J. Niekamp, Scott Knapke, Evan Prenger and Justin Ahlers it's been a blessing to coach to be honest with you."
Coldwater finished the regular season at 6-3 in the MAC and 10-11 overall.  The Cavs will take on Hopewell-Loudon in the first round of the Division III Sectional Tournament at 8 p.m. Tuesday in St. Marys.
"It's bad for the seniors that finished their last game on this floor, but we've got to remember that we start over tomorrow. The records are thrown out," Bruns said. "We're taking the kids out of town tomorrow to forget about this game and to start practicing to get ready for Hopewell-Loudon on Tuesday."
St. Henry got a first round bye in the Division III sectional at Findlay, and will play the winner of the Elmwood-Allen East game next Friday at 6:15 p.m.
Photo by Mark Pummell/The Daily Standard

St. Henry's Mitch Stammen, 4, looks to make a pass while Coldwater's Ted Fisher defends Friday at the Palace.

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