By Gary R. Rasberry
ST. HENRY -- It wasn't the type of game that Joe Niekamp wanted to see from his squad, but he'll take the win.
St. Henry overcame a sluggish start to come to life in the second half to defeat Kalida 68-51 at Redskin Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
The win not only puts St. Henry at 2-0 on the season, but extends its winning streak to 11 games dating back to last season. The last Redskin loss came on Feb. 14 at Van Wert. The Wildcats fall to 2-5.
The Redskins were only able to put the game away in the fourth quarter thanks to some emotion-building plays that got the players and fans excited.
"You have to give Kalida credit. They really played well," said Niekamp, the coach of the Redskins. "They outplayed us, they really did. I think they found an identity with their team the way they played tonight. They fought us off and were pretty effective with that. We didn't do a good job of containing them." Early on, the Wildcats were able to muscle in with big men Andy Unverferth and Tyler Heitmeyer. What made the players, both around 6-5, tough was the fact that they could hit three-pointers.
The Kalida pair also worked their way inside and caused the Redskins to foul more than warranted. The pair combined to go 11-of-14 from the stripe in the game. Six Redskins had three or more fouls by the end of the game.
"We obviously fouled way too much," said Niekamp. "We got out of posistion, a lot of reach-in fouls. In the second half, there was a parade to the foul line (Kalida was 21-of-27 in the game from the foul line), mostly because we were doing things we shouldn't have been doing. That's something we can get better at."
Kurt Huelsman picked up two quick fouls and was off to the bench. With Huelsman not in, the Wildcats did not double and triple-team his backup, Toby Boeckman. The 6-7 junior made the Wildcats pay with strong drives to the hoop in the second quarter to score seven points in the period helping the Redskins score 19 points in the second quarter to take a 27-23 lead at the half.
The Redskins came to life in the second half. Ross Niekamp scored four straight points to start the third quarter and quickly made the score 31-23. For the first four minutes of the third quarter, Kalida managed just two points as the Redskins came on strong, paced by a dunk from Huelsman that got the St. Henry fans on their feet.
Toward the end of the quarter, Kalida made a run with a pair of threes by Craig Unverferth and Andy Unverferth. Andy Puthoff responded after a timeout with a trey of his own to put St. Henry up 10 going into the fourth quarter.
Kalida could only get within eight points in the final quarter. Nate Stahl had three big dunks in the quarter, one of which came when Boeckman missed a layup. Huelsman added another and Stahl and Niekamp each had treys that put the game out of reach.
"It kind of raised our energy level a little bit," said coach Niekamp. "A couple of nice plays, and hustle plays raised our level."
Stahl led all scorers with 17. His three dunks tied the team record for most in a game, sharing the honor with Huelsman and Bobby Hoying. Heulsman overcame a rough start to finish with 11 while Ross Niekamp had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.
Boeckman finished with 13 points off the bench and coach Niekamp had high praise for the post player.
"In the two games, Toby has played real solid," said coach Niekamp. "He's doing a nice job getting position, doing a great job on the boards and he's scoring down there. That's a great addition."
St. Henry returns to action on Thursday when St. Marys comes to Mercer County.