COLDWATER — Minster faced a worst-case scenario when it comes to playing New Knoxville: almost all of the Rangers’ half-dozen perimeter threats were knocking down shots.
For the Wildcats (12-11) it meant a long night of scrambling around, playing a virtual game of defensive wack-a-mole while New Knoxville spread the floor and whipped the ball around to find wide-open looks from beyond the arc.
The Rangers buried 10 three-pointers and had five players reach double-figures in a 73-62 win over the Wildcats in a Division IV sectional semifinal at The Palace on Wednesday night.
“It’s about all a coach can ask for,” New Knoxville head coach Kort Fledderjohann said of his team’s performance in its second win over Minster in six days.
New Knoxville’s ability to spread out offensively and hit shots was a tough guard for the Wildcats, Minster head coach Mike Lee said. “Basketball is a game of match-ups and we knew we had some holes to fill after a short period of time after what they did to us on Friday night,” Lee said. “With their skill level, when they get up five or six points and then start knocking shots down with a level of confidence, everybody starts feeding on that and that’s what happened.”
New Knoxville (12-11) advances to play St. Henry on Friday night for a sectional title at approximately 8 p.m. in Coldwater. St. Henry scored the game’s first 17 points and coasted to a 85-53 win over Waynesfield-Goshen in the night’s first game. In Friday’s other sectional title game, New Bremen will play Marion Local at 6:15 p.m.
Less than two weeks ago, New Knoxville looked like a team limping towards an uneventful finish after losing three straight February games to Coldwater, Crestview and a lowly Lima Shawnee team and averaging just 46.3 points per game during that three-game spiral. Now the Rangers have a shot at state-ranked St. Henry for a sectional crown after two wins against Minster over a span of just 120 hours.
New Knoxville beat Minster 61-51 last Friday night, shooting about 50 percent from the floor. The Rangers smoldered from the field again on Wednesday, draining 59 percent of their shots and 10-of-20 three-pointers.
New Knoxville senior Jake Allen played a flawless floor game, scoring 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from long range and a team-high six rebounds.
Isaac Kuntz scored 13 points and went 3-of-5 from outside. Ryan Lageman scored 11 points on 3-of-6 three-point shooting.
“Jake Allen did a great job driving into the lane and kicking out and those guys stepped up and hit some shots,” Fledderjohann said.
Adam Howe added 11 points off the bench.
“I’m happy for Adam,” Fledderjohann said. “He started the year really struggling from the field and just couldn’t make anything. The last month it’s come around for him and he’s become one of our more reliable outside shooters.”
Andrew Arnett added 10 points.
Minster senior Devon Poeppelman led Minster with 19 points.
New Knoxville turned a 28-23 halftime lead into a 14-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter by jumping out of the gate in the third quarter with a 10-0 run.
“The first three minutes of the third quarter, we needed to come out with an aggressive attitude and it just didn’t happen,” Lee said. “We had three rotten possessions and New Knoxville came down and capitalized on each one of them.”
The Rangers went 8-for-13 from the floor in the third quarter and were 4-of-6 from 3-point range as Kuntz and Lageman each hit a pair of treys.
“We shot the ball pretty well in the first half and had the five-point lead,” New Knoxville head coach Kort Fledderjohann said. “The halftime discussion was just about building upon that lead. We’ve had a bad habit this year of starting third quarters giving up a couple of easy buckets, but tonight we got a stop right away and went on a run to kickstart it. Isaac Kuntz and Ryan Lageman stepped up and hit some perimeter shots.”
Minster junior center Ethan Wolf scored 18 points and grab a game-high 12 rebounds.
“Wolf is a great player,” Fledderjohann said. “All we could tell Ben Kuck is to fight down there as hard as you can and try to keep him off the block. For the most part, Ben did a good job.”
New Knoxville turned the tables on the Wildcats from a season ago, when Minster knocked the Rangers from the brackets in the sectional, 58-48, last March. New Knoxville will now be charged with slowing down Kyle Stahl and the balanced Redskins. St. Henry won the regular season match-up against New Knoxville, 50-46.
New Knoxville reached 70 points one scoreboard for the fourth time this season and for the first time since Jan. 26 against Fort Jennings.
New Knoxville peeked its head above .500 for the first times since Feb. 15 with a 12-11 record. The Rangers have now won 12 or more games in seven of the last eight seasons dating back to 2005.
ST. HENRY 85, W-G 53
COLDWATER — Fourth-ranked St. Henry swatted away Waynesfield-Goshen to open its tournament run on Wednesday night.
Waynesfield-Goshen had no answer for the 6-foot-5 senior Kyle Stahl or the rest of the Redskins, as St. Henry roared past the Tigers 85-53 in the other Division IV sectional semifinal on Wednesday night at Coldwater.
With multiple Tigers draped over him, St. Henry’s Stahl at times played his own personal game of beach ball in the paint, batting caroms off the basket to himself or teammates for second, third and even fourth chances. Stahl scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for the Redskins, who advance to play the winner of New Knoxville and Minster on Friday. St. Henry had 19 offensive rebounds and outboarded the undersized Tigers, 42-25.
St. Henry head coach Eric Rosenbeck liked the restraint and perseverance Stahl showed while battling W-G players in the paint.
“Kyle is not only a heck of a ballplayer, but he’s a heck of a person,” Rosenbeck said. “He did a very, very good job of staying balanced and not letting his emotions get in the way and kept attacking the boards as well as the other guys and as a result we were able to expand our lead.”
St. Henry, which was the top-ranked team in the Associated Press’ Div. IV poll for much of the regular season, scored the game’s first 17 points and never stumbled against the 7-15 Tigers.
“I thought it showed some maturity from our guys to be able to come out and execute the way we felt we could,” Rosenbeck said. “I also was proud of our defense to start the game.”
On a night W-G struggled from the floor on 35 percent shooting, senior Dylan Little provided a spark. Little scored a game-high 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the floor. Little was 4-of-5 from 3-point range. W-G went 6-for-10 as a team from 3-point distance.