03-12-04 Redskins advance to finals
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03-12-04 Redskins advance to finals

By Robb Hemmelgarn

ADA — If you’ve had the opportunity to see St. Henry’s Nate Stahl play this season, it doesn’t take long to figure out that there aren’t many open shots he does not like, especially from behind the three-point arc.
   Last eve-ning, following the Redskin’s 61-45 win over the Archbold Blue Streaks, Coach Joe Niekamp reiterated that fact and Stahl quietly agreed from his seat in the media room.
   Stahl drilled three of seven long ball attempts and finished 7-of-11 from the field in the first half for 18 of his team’s 24 points at the halftime break. The 6-4 junior finished the contest with a game-high 25 points as the Redskins rolled into the District finals, improving to 17-5 on the season.
   “I missed a few shots in the beginning, but I just kept shooting and eventually found my groove,” remarked Stahl, who also led the Redskins with nine rebounds on the evening. “The other guys kept feeding me, and I was getting good looks at the basket, so I just kept shooting.”
   The Redskin’s 2-2-1 full court press wreaked havoc for the Blue Streak ball handlers all evening, especially in the opening minutes of the contest, when St. Henry forced eight consecutive turn-overs and jumped out to the 10-0 lead.
   “A lot of teams focus on our height, but I also feel we have a lot of quickness on the floor as well,” said Niekamp. “Our press has been working well for us lately, and tonight I felt we were able to really take advantage of a lot of their mistakes and score some big points off turnovers in the early going.”
   A Redskin cheering section that was in a joyous uproar, soon grew as nervous as Willie Nelson during tax season, as the Blue Streaks gained their composure and strung together a 19-3 run over an eight-minute span between the first and second quarters. With just under four minutes to play in the half, Archbold held a six-point advantage, however a jump shot by Ross Niekamp and a three-pointer from Stahl cut the Archbold lead to one point. The Blue Streaks answered with another bucket to go up 21-18, but Stahl tied it up with another shot from beyond the arc. With a shade under 30 seconds to play in the half, Stahl missed a 15-footer, but rebounded the shot and put it back in, drawing the foul in the process. He calmly sunk the free throw, and St. Henry went into the locker room with a 24-21 lead.
   “We felt pretty good going into the locker room at halftime,” commented Archbold coach (Continued from page 1B) Doug Krauss. “We were down three points, but our kids battled back from a big deficit, and we thought we were starting to cut down on our mistakes.”
   Steve Sutter, who was held scoreless in the opening half, began the third period with four quick points, and the St. Henry lead was extended to seven points, 28-21. Stahl hit an easy lay in off of another Archbold turnover to put the ÔSkins up by nine, forcing Krauss to call a timeout. The Blue Streaks would get their deficit down to as many as six points with 3:04 left in the stanza, but then St. Henry posted an 11-2 run on their opponent to end the third period with the 49-34 lead.
   “I think we were able to come out in the second half and get some more guys in the scoring column,” said Niekamp. “We cut down on our mistakes, and we played a lot better than we did in the second quarter.”
   The Blue Streaks immediately cut the St. Henry lead to 13 points in the beginning of the fourth quarter, but from there St. Henry left little doubt as to the outcome of the contest. Two straight feeds into the paint to Kurt Huelsman netted four points for the sophomore center. Freshman Andy Puthoff then drained a pair of long balls, slamming the door shut on any hopes Archbold had of a comeback. With the Redskins holding the 23-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Redskin defense continued to prevail, and with just over two minutes to play in the game, both coaches began to substitute freely. The Blue Streaks closed the game with the final six points, but the outcome had already been decided as St. Henry held on for the 61-45 win.
   “We had a lot of guys contribute in a lot of ways tonight, and aspects of our game are really starting to balance themselves out,” said Niekamp. “We are taking it one game at a time, and we will now start to prepare for whoever our next opponent is.”
   St. Henry ticket info: Tickets for Saturday night’s tournament game at Ohio Northern will be on sale at Gels Market until 1 p.m. on Saturday. Adult tickets are $5 and student tickets are $4. All tickets at the door are $5. Fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance and everyone admitted needs a ticket. Doors open at 6 p.m.


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