Saints march past Concordia, have title in sight
For the first time in more than a score, the Saint Paul Saints boys' basketball team can claim an outright I-70 Conference championship Friday night when it travels to Sweet Springs.
The Saints last won the league title in the 1992-93 season, registering a perfect 7-0 mark, edging out Concordia by one game.
Saint Paul moved its record to 6-0 in I-70 action with a 54-42 victory over visiting Concordia Wednesday. It was a make-up game from one postponed from Jan. 31.
Defending the basket was the biggest factor in the win, according to SPLHS head coach Monte Pitsch.
"To see some of the offensive numbers Concordia had been putting up really had us concerned," he said. "I thought we played pretty solid defense."
The Saints, who also tied for the crown in 2006-07 and in 2000-01 with 6-1 marks along with Concordia, used two dunks by Gerhard von zur Muehlen to get off to a fast start, jumping to an 11-3 lead.
Concordia climbed back in the game with Cass Heimsoth pumping in eight of his game-high 18 points in the first stanza, getting as close as 14-13.
But the Saints got a driving basket by Elijah Rodewald with 40 seconds left to improve their lead to three at the end of the opening eight minutes.
The Saints used the inside presence or von zur Muehlen to score five of the first eight points of the second quarter. Eric Allen's basket increased the lead to 23-16 with 4:48 to go in the first half.
Heimsoth answered with his second three-point basket in the second quarter only 18 seconds later. But the Orioles failed to score for the next 2-1/2 minutes.
The Saints took advantage of CHS's drought, Michael Nebel connecting twice from the field and assisting on a basket by Allen on a fast-break chance.
The crippling 8-0 run by the Saints ended with another bucket by von zur Muehlen on a feed from Rodewald with 2:10 left in the half.
"Elijah really did a nice job of finding the open man," Pitsch said.
Concordia stopped the bleeding when Trent McGinnis grabbed a missed shot and scored down low.
Holding Heimsoth in check was going to go a long way toward the Saints being able to win. Adjustments were necessary as he had tossed in 14 first-half points.
"Cass is a god offensive player," Pitsch said. "We had trouble stopping the first half. We had to change our defenses to slow him down a little in the second half."
The Saints opened the second half with a fast-break basket by Rodewald and a free throw by Peter Lemmons.
McGinnis scored twice inside to get CHS within 34-24, and the two teams traded points until the Orioles' Jordan Schlueter drained a three-pointer to get them within 41-32 with 1:55 left in the quarter.
The Saints' Lemmons answered with a three-pointer 25 seconds later, and von zur Muehlen grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled and hit both charities for a 46-32 advantage.
Saint Paul led 46-34 with a quarter to go.
The Saints spent the biggest part of the fourth quarter playing keep away from CHS, utilizing ball-handling skills, taking off more than a minute of the clock on more than one occasion before looking to the basket.
Concordia never got closer than the 12-point margin at the beginning of the quarter or the end of the game.
The Saints were led by von zur Muehlen with 17 points and nine rebounds. Lemmons finished with 14 points and Allen 11, including two threes. Rodewald added six points, five assists and five steals and Nebel four points.
"We played fairly well on the of offense," Pitsch said. "Gerhard had a nice offensive game being one rebound short of a double-double."
Schlueter scored nine points (three three-point baskets)and McGinnis seven for the Orioles. Austin Beydler added four points and Tony Sherman and Ty Flandermeyer two each.