Saint Paul Lutheran boys face a tough opponent in WellNap game
On Friday, Feb. 2, the Saint Paul Lutheran High School boys varsity basketball squad made the trip to Wellington for an I-70 Conference matchup with the Tigers. The Saints men — ranked number eight in Class 3 by the MBCA’s most recent poll — found themselves evenly matched, using almost every second of clock to earn the victory against the MBCA’s tenth-ranked Class 2 program.
Saint Paul 58
In one of the most exciting games to come out of Central Missouri this season, the Saints and Tigers — two of the premier I-70 Conference boys basketball programs — took to the hardwood for an extremely important matchup with conference implications potentially hanging on the result.
The game didn’t get off to the start the Saints wanted, as their 17 first-quarter points would be good enough for a lead had they not allowed 20 Tiger points in the same frame. Senior Jose Alicea II hit three times from inside in the first period.
The second quarter, however, was a different story altogether. The Saints, normally good for more than 12 points in a quarter, were held to just that, but were also able to keep the Tigers — normally good for way more than seven points — to just seven points, bringing the halftime score to 29-27 in favor of the Saints. Junior Elijah Mueller, one of the most dynamic players in the conference, followed up his three-point first quarter with five more points in the second quarter, while Alicea and fellow senior Mark Allen added baskets of their own.
The third quarter was a familiar one for Saints fans, as the boys held Wellington to 12 points while outscoring them by five, extending the lead to 46-39 entering the final frame. Allen splashed home from outside again, as did Mueller, while three other Saints added baskets inside.
With just seconds remaining, WellNap star Trey Shannon took an outlet pass off of a missed free throw and drove the length of the court, finishing a layup attempt to tie the game at 56. Junior Micah Lemmons inbounded the ball to Mueller, who immediately kicked it back to him. Lemmons took the ball and drove up the middle of the court, blowing by any and all defenders en-route to a layup that would have looked beautiful even if it wasn’t the go-ahead basket. Deflated but not yet defeated, the Tigers attempted to inbound, but they were never able to get a clean look, cementing the Saints victory.
The Saints couldn’t have gotten the win without a solid outing from Muehler (19 points, four rebounds, three steals, 3-5 from three point land), Alicea (15 points, 10 rebounds, 6-8 from the floor), Allen (12 points, four rebounds), and Lemmons’ clutch play when it counted, adding the two biggest of his eight points with overtime hanging in the balance.
For the Saints, the victory moves them to 17-3 (5-0 in conference). They previously matched up with WellNap twice.
On Dec. 9, they defeated the Tigers for the I-70 Conference Tournament championship, but lost to them a month later, when their Jan. 6 matchup in the Lafayette County Tournament championship ended with a nine point loss.
For WNHS, the loss drops them to 14-7 (2-2 in conference). They gained an earlier loss this week when they fell to CHS in conference play, meaning the Concordia-based teams swept them in the regular season.