MINSTER — The last five minutes of the game were profitable Friday night for the New Knoxville Rangers as they outscored the Minster Wildcats 24-14 to pull away with a 61-51 victory in the final regular season game for both teams.
They’ll see each other again in just five days when they play a Division IV sectional semifinal match-up on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Coldwater High School.
“Between the third and fourth quarters they beat us by two,” Rangers head coach Kort Fledderjohann said. “We talked about that defense was going to win us this game. This is a game that forces us to try to beat their size and we had to beat them with our post play.”
Going into the fourth quarter the Rangers held a slim 33-32 lead, but Ben Kuck put the Rangers up by three with a basket. Devon Poeppelman quickly tied the game at 35-all with a triple, but with the score tied at 37-37 Jake Allen gave the Rangers a lead that they would not relinquish with a trey with six minutes left.
“We struggled against what they were doing defensively most of the game,” Minster head coach Mike Lee said. “We did string a couple baskets together and just when you think you have the momentum it switches and goes the other way. You have to give credit to them because they stepped up and hit big shot after big shot.”
Following a basket by Ethan Wolf, Isaac Kuntz nailed a bomb for a 43-39 lead with five minutes left. With 3:57 left Eli Wolf closes the deficit to 47-45, but New Knoxville hits 11 of 14 free throws down the stretch to pull away 61-51.
“Whenever we are successful we shoot the ball well from the perimeter and rebound,” Fledderjohann said. “I think they had seven or eight offensive boards at halftime and that is too many. It is always are emphasis in the second half to have a body on the opponent and we did that.”
Minster’s Ethan Wolf pulled down 12 boards, including seven offensive boards.
“Isaac Kuntz shot the ball real well for them,” Lee said. “They can put shooters galore on the perimeter and as evidenced we lost too many of them over the night.”
Three players scored in double figures for the Rangers led by Jake Allen with 20 points. Isaac Kuntz came off the bench with 19 points including five treys and Ben Kuck had 11 points.
Two players were in double figures for Minster with Ethan Wolf having 19 points and Devon Poeppelman contributing 16 points.
“You have to look at your strengths,” Fledderjohann said. “In most games we have different guys step up. Tonight I was happy with how Isaac stepped up. He came off the bench and showed some enthusiasm and gave us the spark we needed.”
Both teams had trouble connecting from the field in the first quarter with New Knoxville squeezing out a 9-6 lead, but both teams went wild from the field as both teams scored 17 points giving the Rangers a 26-23 lead at halftime.
It won’t be long before both teams meet each other again.
“It is always tough to turn around and face a team twice,” Fledderjohann said. “They are going to look at the tape and they are going to do things differently and we will look at the tape and probably
find some things we can do differently so it will be one of those slugfests because both teams know each other so well and the team who executes better will win.”
“Typically in tournament play it is what you do defensively,” Lee said. “We have to do much better than we did tonight and ultimately you have to come with you A game in the tournament.”
In the JV game Minster won 51-44.
The Wildcats end the regular season at 12-10 and 3-6 in the MAC, while the Rangers end at 11-11 and 4-5 in the MAC.