By MARC TOBIAS
ST. MARYS — Todd Graves only scored four points for St.
Marys last night, but the last two were pretty big.
Graves tipped in a Scott Vossler miss at the buzzer to lift
the Roughriders to a 37-35 win over St. Henry on Friday night.
“Hopefully they count it,” Graves said of his initial
reaction. “I didn’t know right away, but everyone
went wild so I figured it did.”
Graves said the shot was easily the highlight of his basketball
career thus far.
“He’s like another coach on the floor, he’s
the leader out there and he gets guys in the right spots and
he knows where he should be when guys take shots,” said
St. Marys coach Josh Leslie of Graves. “He just happened
to be in the right place in the right time, and fortunately
for us he was in the right place with not even a second left
St. Marys had the ball with under a minute to play and it was
obvious they were going to play for one shot.
“We were supposed to waste some clock and get a good shot
out of it. We did what we wanted, we got Tom Burke the shot
in the corner,” Graves said. “Everyone thought it
was in and then the soft rebound, and Scott (Vossler) got it
and put it up in the air and people crashed and we got the tip
Burke, who finished with 11 points, also had a trio of three-pointers
and Leslie said they were looking at him for the final shot.
“The last thing we said out of the timeout was rebound
and play till you hear the buzzer, because in the heat of the
action you just don’t know if there’s one second
left, three seconds left,” said St. Henry coach Joe Niekamp.
“Give them credit, they went and got it and we didn’t
make the big rebound we needed to make.”
The final 10 seconds were somewhat emblematic of the game, as
the tenacity the Riders displayed crashing the offensive glass
at the end of the game was the same tenacity it displayed defensively
the entire game.
St. Marys, along with some help from St. Henry, forced the Redskins
into 28 turnovers.
The ‘Riders 2-3 zone defense eliminated any inside presence
the Redskins hoped to establish.
Six-foot-9 inch sophomore Kurt Huelsman and six-foot-6 inch
senior Steve Sutter combined to take just three shots on the
night, with neither attempting a shot in the first half.
“I think it was pretty good team defense by St. Marys,
and that’s two games in a row that we haven’t been
successful getting it down there, and obviously with our size
we want to do a better job of that,” Niekamp said. “Two
things they did, they effectively pressured on the perimeter,
and they didn’t give us a lot of looks in there. Then
when we did get it in there, we were completely surrounded.”
Leslie was asked what he would have thought if before the game
he was told the Redskins two big guys would only attempt three
“I would have said that’s crazy, I really would
have,” Leslie said. “They had post guys open, but
I think the pressure by our guards kept them from getting it
The lack of an inside presence also led to the Redskins attempting
just one free throw.
To St. Henry’s credit they were able to stay in the game
with solid defense. They were able to force St. Marys into 16
turnovers while holding the ‘Riders to 33 percent shooting
from the field.
Both teams struggled to an 18-14 ‘Riders lead at the half
in what was not a very spectator friendly half of basketball.
St. Henry averaged a turnover a minute (16), and St. Marys wasn’t
much better with 10 giveaways of its own.
With the Redskins continuing to struggle with turnovers in the
second half it looked as if the ‘Riders were going to
be able to seal the game late in the third.
St. Marys took a 10-point lead at 28-18, but the Redskins were
able to scrap their way back with some timely three-point shooting.
Nate Stahl buried consecutive three-pointers to start the fourth
quarter putting St. Henry on top 29-28.
A Vossler bucket and free throw along with a Deron Steinke bucket
put the ‘Riders back up four, but a three-pointer by St.
Henry’s Ross Niekamp cut the lead to one.
Vossler then made 1-of-2 free throws twice to put St. Marys
up by three.
The Redskins answered one more time as Stahl hit his third three-pointer
of the game to tie the score at 35-35 before Graves’ heroics
at the buzzer.
The good news for both squads is that if either can get any
resemblance of an offense established they should be a very
difficult team to beat, because defensively they’re both
“Defense was tremendous. They scored 35 points, and giving
up 35 points you should win every night, defense kept us in
the game,” Graves said. “With the defense working
right now we think if we can get the offense working we can
be pretty tough.”
Stahl led all scorers with 15 points while Niekamp added 10
for the Redskins. Vossler led the ‘Riders with 13 points.
The one downer for St. Marys was an injury to starter Wes Clark.
The junior guard was forced to leave midway in the fourth with
what looked to be a serious knee injury.
“We need to get him back, it’s as simple as that,”
St. Marys returns to action tonight at Minster while St. Henry