By Robb Hemmelgarn
MINSTER -- For most of the first half of last evening's basketball contest at Minster Middle School, the St. Henry Lady Redskins were hanging around with the heavily-favored Minster Lady Wildcats punch for punch.
Then the third quarter happened, and any thoughts of an upset for the Redskin faithful were cast to the side. The Wildcats turned up the defensive heat in the third period, while dominating the inside on both ends of the floor, to send the Redskins home with a 79-51 defeat.
The win pushes the Orange and Black to 13-3 on the season, while their league mark remains unblemished at 7-0. The victory sets up the titanic showdown Thursday night at the Hangar in Maria Stein against the undefeated Marion Local Flyers.
The inside duo of senior Amy Kremer and sophomore Lisa Muhlenkamp combined for 40 points, pacing five Wildcats who scored in double digits. Kremer hit 10 of her 11 shots from the field for 21 counters, while Muhlenkamp parolled the paint for 19 points, connecting on 8-of-9 shots from close range. Danae Spieles picked up 13 points, Karen Brackman hit for 12, and Laura Gruber added 10 for the Wildcats.
"We did a lot of good things tonight, especially in the second half," said Wildcat head coach Nann Stechschulte. "We played well as a team and were able to finish with a win." The Redskins led by four points on a few different occasions in the opening minutes, but a bucket by Gruber gave the home team a 10-8 lead, a lead they never relinquished. The Wildcats led by as many as six points in the opening stanza, but St. Henry battled to cut its deficit to 23-22 early in the second period.
The Wildcats scored the game's next six points to push ahead by seven points, 29-22.
For the next few minutes however, it was the "Brenda Hemmelgarn Show" as the St. Henry senior drilled a three-pointer and followed up with a pair of jumpers, to knot the game at 29 points. The Wildcats answered in a hurry, and a buzzer-beater by Gruber put the home team in command 35-30 at the end of the first half.
As fast-paced as the Redskins' game had been in the opening 16 minutes, the Wildcats doubled the intensity and then some -- outscoring the visitors 29-9 in the third quarter.
"I was really proud of the way the girls came out in the third quarter and responded," remarked Stechschulte. "I challenged them in the locker room to make it more difficult for them offensively and I felt we were able to do that."
"They came out in the second half and really turned up their intensity on both sides of the floor and we didn't match it. It's as simple as that," commented Redskin head coach Charlie Maier. "We only scored nine points to their 29 in that third quarter, and that's the ball game right there. Minster is a good ball club. They made nice passes and moved the ball very, very well to find the open spots and we didn't contest that."
Minster found open holes in St. Henry's defense and exploited the middle with quick strikes inside to Muhlenkamp and Kremer.
"Tonight we didn't do a good job of getting back on the press and taking away their easy shots," said Maier. "We really didn't do a good job of defending the post either. We played behind them and that's something you can't do. Defending the middle was something we had trouble with early in the season, but then I felt we started to get better. Tonight we just didn't respond to them at all."
While St. Henry composed themselves slightly in the final period, but the damage was already inflicted, as both teams turned to their benches to close the final minutes of the contest.
The Redskins, who fall to 7-9 on the season overall and 4-4 in the MAC were led in scoring by Danielle Kremer's 17 points while Brenda Hemmelgarn added 14 points in the defeat.
The Redskins will host New Knoxville on Thursday for senior night.