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Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Wildcats down Cardinals in Battle of Route 66

By Gary R. Rasberry
MINSTER - Minster jumped out to a solid lead on New Bremen in the first half and then used timely free throw shooting in the fourth quarter to hold off a Cardinal charge and pick up a 48-37 win in MAC boys basketball action at Wildcat Gymnasium on Friday night in the Battle of Route 66.
The win snaps the Wildcats' two-game losing streak and improves them to 6-5 and 2-2 in the MAC. The Cardinals, who had won the previous four meetings against Minster, drop to 0-11, but their play drew high praise from Minster coach Michael McClurg.
"That team plays as hard as any team in the MAC," said McClurg. "They play hard. I was proud of our guys for their mental toughness."
The game started out slow as both teams put the defensive pressure on early. Jared Huelsman's three-pointer with 4:06 left in the first quarter put the Wildcats in front to stay at 4-3.
The Cardinals played catch-up the rest of the night, but always kept the Wildcats on their toes. A basket from Luke Vonderhaar and a free throw from Caleb Alig pared a 12-5 first-quarter deficit to 12-8, but Huelsman scored five points in a span on 14 seconds to push Minster's lead to 17-8. New Bremen committed six of its 11 first-half turnovers in the second quarter, helping Minster take a 24-13 halftime lead.
"We let their pressure speed us up in the first half," New Bremen coach Adam Dougherty said.
The third quarter was a bit sluggish, but New Bremen eventually began to inch closer to the Wildcats. After being down 29-17 with 3:33 remaining, Eric Bowers hit a three-pointer to get the Cardinals within single digits. After a scoreless Minster possession, Tate Myers got a bucket to fall to cut Minster's lead to 29-22 at the end of the third quarter.
Seven points was all the closer the Wildcats allowed the Cardinals to get the rest of the game. Minster spent a good part of the fourth quarter at the charity stripe. The Wildcats were 13-of-17 from the line. Aaron Ernst was 6-of-6 as part of an eight-point four quarter.
"Fourth quarter was just toughness," McClurg said. "(New Bremen) made a couple runs at us and we were able to hold them off."
"We played better in the second half, but the way they shoot free throws (Minster was 21-of-27 from the line for the game), you can't get down like that and expect to get back," Dougherty said. "We're a better basketball team this Friday from last Friday. We'll just keeping working."
Ernst finished with 12 points to lead Minster. Huelsman added 11 off the bench.
Myers, who initially was thought to be out for the season with injury before returning for the Celina game on Jan. 7, finished with 12 points and five rebounds for New Bremen.
Both teams are back in action tonight at their home venues. Minster hosts the Russia Raiders and New Bremen plays host to Wapakoneta.
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