By Ryan Hines
DAYTON -- Halftime adjustments are often what separates a team from winning or losing.
Minster made the right adjustments at halftime and ran away with the game in the second half of its Division IV regional final game on Friday at UD Arena against Lockland.
The Wildcats (21-4) defeated Lockland, 59-47, to earn a berth into the state final four next weekend in Columbus at the Schottenstein Center with Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (20-5) waiting in the state semifinals. Tip-off is set for 5:15 p.m., preceding the other Division IV semifinal between Continental (22-3) and Columbus Africentric (25-1) at 8:30 p.m.
The two semifinal winners will meet on Saturday at 2 p.m. with the state title on the line.
Minster was down 26-22 after the first two quarters of play after struggling against the Lockland fullcourt pressure and their intensity on the glass. The Wildcats shot just 27 percent in the first half and were outrebounded by nine in the first 16 minutes of action. That all changed in the second half, as Minster began to attack the Lockland pressure and held its own on the boards.
Following a Lockland bucket to open the second half, Minster's Dane Sommer hit for five quick points and Jake Luttmer added another two points as the Wildcats regained the lead, 29-28.
Lockland got a bucket from Tommy Cox to give the lead back to the Panthers, but Minster responded with baskets from Justin Spillers and Jeff Preston to give the Wildcats a 33-30 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
"I think that halftime came at a very good time for this team," said Lee. "The focus at halftime was to get rejuvenated. We were down four at the half, but we've been down by more than that before and made a comeback to win. We started to rebound the ball better and then get the ball out on the break and just kept attacking their press and the basket. We felt that a run was coming for us and it finally did.
"You just can't simulate their (Lockland) quickness in three practices but once we saw that Boeke, Stricker and Luttmer were handling their pressure pretty well, we felt that we had to attack it and get some easy baskets out of it," continued Lee.
Minster opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 spurt enabling the Wildcats to jump out to a comfortable 41-32 advantage.
The Minster lead stayed between seven and nine points until Preston had a pair of layups, Alex Stricker added a bunny and (Continued from page 7)
Luttmer hit two free throws to push the Orange and Black's lead to 53-36.
"I think that once we got the lead into double-digits, I think that they got a little frustrated and I thought that if stayed aggressive and kept attacking that it could be the knockout punch," explained Lee. "At that point, it was much better for the Orange and Black."
From that point on Minster fans, which outnumbered the Lockland fans 4-1, began to celebrate in the stands knowing that a trip to state was in their future. It will be the first time that Minster has been to state since the 1965 season.
Sommer spearheaded the Minster second-half comeback as the senior totaled a game-high 18 points and handed out a game-high nine assists, many of highlight reel quality, to go along with three steals.
"We saw what the true Dane is in the open floor tonight," lauded Lee. "A lot of our kids were the recipients of great passes from him and that was because of his ability to attack the basket and then find the open man. Great players make great plays and I think that he did that tonight."
"Coach told us at halftime to be more aggressive against their press and we did that in the second half and got a lot of easy shots off the break," said Sommer.
Spillers continued his strong play in the regional with his second straight double-double as the senior center scored 11 points, all in the second half, and had 10 rebounds.
"I think that we all came out with more confidence in the second half because we didn't play well in the first half and we were still down by only four points," said Spillers.
"Justin just had an outstanding regional tournament," praised Lee. "I think that he was a little disappointed because he didn't score much and was in a lot of foul trouble at the districts in Wapak. Boy, he bounced back in a big way for us in the regionals."
After shooting just 27 percent in the first half, Minster rebounded by hitting 54 percent of their field goals in the second half and played even with Lockland on the glass.
Dajuan Harris, averaging over 20 points on the season, led Lockland with 15 points while Tommy Cox added 11 for the Panthers (23-3).