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The Daily



12-13-03: Graves hits game- winner for ’Riders


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 probably.”
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 in.”
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 shots.
“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 to them.”
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 sound.
“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,” Leslie said.
St. Marys returns to action tonight at Minster while St. Henry hosts Lehman.


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