WAPAKONETA — The New Knoxville starting five left the floor and had a group hug on the bench with time to spare in the fourth quarter, a prospect that didn’t seem likely when two of the best teams in Division IV squared off.
Prepared for a battle between two of the top teams in the Midwest Athletic Conference, the New Knoxville girls basketball team instead steamrolled to a district title with a 54-31 win over Minster at the Division IV tournament at Wapakoneta on Saturday night.
The Rangers outscored Minster 34-19 in the second half to romp to their second district title in three seasons.
“Our girls wanted it really bad. It was matter of us putting the ball in the basket a little more than they did,” New Knoxville head coach Tim Hegemier said. “I’ve got two seniors here who deserve to go on. Minster is a heck of a ballclub. They can throw 10 players at you and you have to constantly be thinking and switching. I thought our girls did a good job of handling the basketball.”
New Knoxville senior Haley Horstman controlled the game, scoring 20 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the floor.
“In the first two possessions of the game she had more points than she did the first time we played them,” Minster head coach Nann Stechschulte said. “The last thing you want to do is let her go off. She’s such a great player. And the last thing you want to do against that team is let them get a lead. If you let them get the lead, they’ll milk the clock and make you play defense until the cows come home.”
Meg Reineke stretched the Minster defense with 13 points on 5 of 8 shooting from the perimeter, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Paige Lehman added 10 points.
“We hit some big shots,” Hegemier said. “We had some nice open looks and I kept saying, ‘Please go in!’ and they did.”
New Knoxville was aggressive off the dribble, getting to the basket and finishing with three-point plays in the second half. Hegemier said it’s one of the major differences between his team in December — when it lost to Minster 54-42 — and the team that has won 19 straight games heading into Thursday’s game at Tipp City against Fort Loramie at 8 p.m.
“That’s what we weren’t very good at the first part of the year,” Hegemier said. “We were relying on three-point shots and then it’s one and done. We have to keep attacking the basket and getting to the foul line.”
Loramie also beatNew Knoxville in the first quarter of the season 52-37 on Nov. 26 when the Rangers got off to that slow 2-4 start. Now the two will play in the round of 32 in the OHSAA tournament.
“Loramie is a really good team, very fundamental,” Hegemier said. “They’ve got a couple good players, the Rose girl especially. We’ll sit down at the drawing board and figuring out how we’re going to do this.”
New Knoxville shot 57 percent from the floor and hit all nine of its free throws.