By Gary R. Rasberry
ST. HENRY -- Timing is everything.
After looking a bit sluggish through most of the game, the St. Henry Redskins turned things up a notch in overtime.
A 7-1 run at the start of the extra session gave the Redskins a needed boost to hold off the last-second charge of St. John's to survive a 51-49 Midwest Athletic Conference decision at Redskin Gymnasium on Tuesday.
The Redskins, ranked in the top 10 of the first Associated Press poll of the season in Division III, improve to 7-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference. The loss snaps a two-game winning streak by the Blue Jays, putting them at 3-4 on the season and 1-1 in the MAC.
The back-and-forth game saw the teams trading the lead and never being more than a few points ahead or behind on the night. St. John's led at the end of the first quarter and at halftime as the Redskins had some uncharacteristic shooting woes, especially from big men Kurt Huelsman and Toby Boeckman. The pair combined to go 4-of-10 from the field in the first half as the Redskins shot barely over 30 percent -- 7-of-23 for 30.4 percent -- as a team in the first half.
"We had some opportunities early on," said St. Henry coach Joe Niekamp. "This is the kind of game with the kind of style (St. John's) wanted to play (where) you'd like to get ahead. We had some opportunities inside and some open looks on the three-point line, but didn't knock too many shots down."
The Blue Jays were shooting 41 percent at the half but could not find the timing to put St. Henry down big.
The back-and-forth nature continued in the third quarter, where St. Henry took a small 31-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Derek Webb stepped up in the fourth quarter, getting four points before hitting a three-pointer with 1:44 left to tie the game at 40-all. St. Henry tried to set up for the right shot on the ensuing possession, but Blaine Odenweller stepped in front of a pass for a steal and fired to Curtis Laudick, who laid it in with 1:15 left to put the Jays up 42-40.
After a timeout, St. Henry's Ryan Ranly, who had four big points in the quarter, tried a three and missed but Huelsman got the rebound and went back up, getting fouled by Kazz Bryan with 59.4 seconds left. Huelsman, a 56 percent free-throw shooter, made both tosses to tie the game.
The Jays worked the ball to Webb, who drove for a layup but lost the ball when it hit the knee of a St. Henry defender. The officials ruled it was a kick and reset play for St. John's. Webb's three-pointer from the corner was just off the mark, forcing overtime.
Webb started overtime by being fouled and made the back-end of the two-shot foul to go up one. St. Henry broke the ensuing press and got the ball inside to Huelsman, who was fouled. The 6-9 University of Dayton signee hit both charity tosses to give the Redskins a one-point edge.
Boeckman then corraled a St. John's missed shot and fired a perfect pass to Mitch Niekamp, who was dashing for the basket and Niekamp made the wide-open bunny to make it 46-43 in favor of St. Henry.
After a Blue Jay turnover, Huelsman got the ball down low and scored to make it 48-43 with 1:59 left. A Boeckman free throw 22 seconds later made it 49-43.
"We lost our poise," said Delphos St. John's head coach Doug Etgen. "Other times we showed our poise and patitence. I had to burn my (overtime) timeout to (compose) them."
St. Henry had a chance to ice the game when Bryan was called for an intentional foul, but Huelsman missed both free throws and St. Henry turned over the ball on the ensuing inbounds. Spencer Wells nailed a three-pointer to cut the St. Henry lead to three, but Boeckman was fouled on the inbounds and made both free throws to make it a five-point game with 31.4 seconds left.
Wells came back with another trey with 17 seconds left to cut the deficit to two before Puthoff was fouled and went to the line missing both free throws.
With no timeouts, St. John's dashed down and tried a three-pointer, but Webb missed at the end as the Redskins breathed a sigh of relief.
"I told the kids not every game is going to be pretty," said coach Niekamp. "You're not going to play your best game every game, and we certainly didn't tonight. You have to give St. John's credit. I was pleased. Our guys showed a lot of guts. It was just one of those games where somebody was going to have to make some plays, either them or us, to get the win.
"I was real proud of their effort. ... The kids were trying really hard. I was proud of their effort and fortitude to pull it out down the stretch when things really didn't go our way tonight. You're going to have nights like that."
Boeckman finished with 16 points and seven boards for the Redskins while Huelsman finished with 13 and nine boards. Ranly also hit for double figures for the Redskins with 12 points.
Webb paced St. John's with 15 points and Wells added 14.
St. Henry hosts Parkway on Friday in a key conference game. St. John's returns to Arnzen Gymnasium to host a hot Versailles squad.