By Randy Bruns
COLDWATER -- The Minster Wildcats used a big third-quarter offensive rally and hit just enough free throws down the stretch Friday night to stay undefeated in the Midwest Athletic Conference with a 61-58 win over the Coldwater Cavaliers at the Palace.
The win improves Minster's record to 6-2 overall and 3-0 in the MAC, while Coldwater falls to 4-3 on the year and 0-3 in conference play.
After a first half display that was equal parts lackluster, lethargic, and lamentable, the Wildcats began the second half as if shot out of a cannon. Down by nine at the break, the visitors put up 15 points in the first three minutes of the third quarter alone to just six for the hosts, and the game was quickly tied at 41-apiece.
From there on out, it was a free-for-all, as the two teams put on a frenzied, if not ragged, exhibition of all-out basketball. The Cavaliers grabbed the lead back at the end of the third quarter and held it until five minutes remained in the game when Andy Beckman took a nifty pass from Dane Sommer and scored to tie things at 53-all.
The Wildcats later went up by four, but a Chad Geier three-ball brought the Cavaliers back to within one with three minutes left. The two teams then traded buckets, and the visitors had a chance to widen their lead but missed on two straight one-and-bonus opportunities. Coldwater had a chance to take the lead, but Troy Siefring's jumper missed its mark and Beckman rebounded and was fouled. The junior then hit two big free throws, and Coldwater's last chance to send the game to overtime ended when Siefring's off-balance three ball missed in the waning seconds.
"I told our team at halftime that how we started this game was uncharacteristic," said Minster coach Mike Lee. "To Coldwater's credit they were more active and every loose ball was going into their hands. The goal was to get (the deficit) under double digits at half and the next goal was to get it under four by the end of the third. In just a few minutes we not only got even but jumped ahead. That's a credit to everybody in that locker room, because we could have come out and rolled over and played dead to start the third quarter."
Coldwater coach Don Vogt downplayed his team's third quarter malaise and instead pointed to mistakes that took place throughout the game.
"Until we learn to check out on rebounding and stop turning the ball over, we're not going to be successful," said Vogt. "In my mind, that was it. It wasn't three minutes here or there, it was during the course of the game where we didn't rebound well. I've seen us rebound before, so I know we can rebound, and I've seen us have only four turnovers, so I know we can take care of the ball. Until we can get those things done we're not going to be successful."
The Cavaliers started the game on fire, as they jumped out to an early 8-0 lead. The hosts' quick hands and trapping defense forced 12 Wildcat turnovers in the first half and enabled them to jump in front by 14 points at one juncture in the second period before the visitors started their comeback.
Geier took game-high honors on the night with his 19 points, while Mike Lefeld and Craig Wellman contributed 15 and 11, respectively. Beckman was the lone double-digit scorer for the visitors with 15, but four more Wildcats tallied eight or more points.
Minster returns to action tonight facing Fort Loramie at home, while Coldwater will take to the road for a game at Elida.