Jefferson sophomore Trey Smith puts up a jumper during Wednesday’s night’s boys sectional play in St. Marys. Smith had 17 for the Jeffcats, who lost to St. Henry, 50-32. (Times Bulletin/Randy Shellenbarger)
By Jim Metcalfe
ST. MARYS — Jefferson had a four-game winning streak and St. Henry a seven-game streak when the two boys basketball teams met up in the first game of Wednesday’s Division III sectional tournament lower bracket at “The Horseshoe” of St. Marys Memorial.
The Redskins used a slow-tempo offense and matchup zone defense to near perfection in eliminating the Wildcats 50-32.
The Redskins (16-7) advance to take on Van Wert, who knocked out Coldwater in the late game on Wednesday. The sectional final will tip off at approximately 8 p.m. on Friday night.
“They went to this offense about a month ago and haven’t lost since. It’s against the odds for a team to hold the ball like they did the first possession and then hit a three, but they did that a lot,” Jefferson head coach Marc Smith noted. “They have been playing well, and they start with a Division I prime-time player in (Ryan) Mikesell. I felt we did a pretty good job on him, but they have a lot of weapons around him.”
“Then they played that tough defense, it was hard to get anything inside. I have nothing but respect for Coach (Eric) Westerbeck as a coach and person. On the other side, I can’t fault the outstanding effort we gave. We were playing our best ball the last month of the season because the kids bought into the roles we had for them.”
Westerbeck noted why they have played so well.
“We were 8-7 when we went to this. It isn’t pretty and we aren’t proud that we had to do this but it was necessary,” Westerbeck explained. “We simply had to simplify the game and the decision-making for our guys. It’s simple: if you’re open, shoot the three. If the drive is there, attack the basket. We’ve been effective with it.”
The Redskins (16-7) used the all-around skills of the 6-foot-6 junior Mikesell to handle the ball in the middle, as well as linchpin the half-court zone. After winning the opening tap, they ran nearly 90 seconds off the clock on the first possession and forced the Wildcats (14-9) to come out of their relaxed defense.
After Mitchel Stammen and Jefferson sophomore Trey Smith exchanged triples to open the contest, Caleb Bender, on another trifecta, gave the ’Skins the lead for good at the five-minute mark. That started a 12-0 spurt, with Bender and Mikesell each hitting five points, to give them a 15-3 edge on a Mikesell layin at 1:40. Smith hit a driving leaner to pull the Wildcats to within 10 at 15-5 after one quarter.
The Wildcats began to rally in earnest in the second stanza. While the Redskins built up a 12-point edge on a basket by Tyler Schwieterman at the six-minute mark, Jefferson used the 3-pointer — and a defense that blanked the Redskins for nearly the rest of the period — to get back in it.
After Smith hit a deuce and buried a trio from the left corner, senior Austin Jettinghoff hit his only field goal of the night, a three, and Smith then got the Wildcats within one at 21-20 on a triple from the left corner. However, St. Henry regained momentum going into the locker room as Stammen swished a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 24-20 halftime margin.
Getting the ball to open the third period, St. Henry ran off two minutes before getting into its offense. Evan Prenger hit another trifecta for the Redskins at 5:25 to open the scoring and senior Ross Thompson bagged a 17-footer for the Wildcats at 4:25. However, that would be it for the Wildcat offense for the next 4:14 as they struggled to get anything inside against the length of Mikesell.
On the other end, St. Henry wasn’t exactly on fire, but they did put together a key 6-0 spurt in a three-minute span to lead 33-22 before Smith scored on an inbounds play underneath the basket for a 33-24 scoreboard.
The Wildcats needed to catch fire to have a chance to lengthen their season by one more game. Instead, it was the Redskins who did so, using their spread offense to perfection in hitting four of their first seven shots, while Jefferson went scoreless for the first 4:08, to build a 45-24 advantage. Smith canned a pair of throws to finally break the drought, but it was far too little, too late.
“These four seniors (Jettinghoff, Thompson, Tyler Mox, and Tyler Rice) have been in our program since second grade. They are the first group in my time here that have gone through the entire program. They each brought something to the team in the four years I had them,” Coach Smith added. “They are quality people beyond what they do on the court, they come from good families and good support. I am confident they will be successful at whatever they do in life and I hope we as a coaching staff had some small part to play in that.”
Score by quarters
Jefferson 5 15 4 8 - 32
St. Henry 15 9 9 17 - 50
Stockwell 0, Reiss 2, Teman 0, Jettinghoff 3, Thompson 6, Smith 17, Mox 2, Fitch 0, Hicks 0, Wallace 0, Wollenhaupt 2, Rice 0
St. Henry (50)
P. Stammen 2, Schwieterman 4, Bender 7, M. Stammen 18, Knapke 0, Niekamp 0, Jacobs 4, Prenger 5, Niekamp 0, Mikesell 10, Ahlers 0, Lefeld 0