By MATT NYE
In postseason play, a team looks for its seniors to step up and lead it to victory.
Senior point guard Nick Root carried St. Wendelin to a 53-47 win over Mohawk Tuesday night, scoring 14 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter in a Division IV sectional semifinal at Fostoria High School.
Root converted 9 of 10 free throws and also pulled down six rebounds as the Mohawks improved to 11-12, while the Warriors finished 3-19.
“I just really had confidence in my shot tonight and I just played better defense and the offense came with it,” Root said.
St. Wendelin moves on to play Old Fort (16-5) Friday night for a sectional championship at 6:15 p.m.
Gabe Walters chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds for the Mohawks, while Brady Rutter also scored nine points. St. Wendelin outrebounded Mohawk 33-21 and shot 46 percent (16 of 35) from the floor.
With 4:04 left in the final period of a back-and-forth contest, the teams were tied at 37 when the Mohawks went on a 7-2 run in the next two minutes, fueled by four points by Root and a clutch 3-pointer by Rutter that forced a Warriors timeout. St. Wendelin iced the game as it made 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch.
“We made a few shots there near the end that really loosened up their (Mohawk) defense,” St. Wendelin coach Jim Rutter said. “I knew they didn’t want to play man-to-man because we would have the advantage inside with Walters. Every time he touched the ball he had three or four guys on him, so we would just pass the ball around the perimeter, taking some tough shots. I called a timeout late in the first quarter and told them that we couldn’t just play around the outside all day and that we needed to get some looks inside, which we eventually did.
“We didn’t talk very well tonight defensively and we got caught on a couple of their backscreens, but it was more about the guys not getting screened than the guys getting screened. I knew what was coming, but it was tough to see it live rather than just drawn up on the whiteboard.”
Juston Morter led the Warriors with 18 points, while Hunter Fitschen had 12 and Gunnar Johnson recorded seven points and eight boards.
With just under 2 minutes to play in the first quarter, Mohawk broke a 7-7 tie with a 6-0 spurt to end the period.
Mohawk built a 17-9 lead with 5 minutes left in the first half. St. Wendelin responded with a 9-0 run, capped off by a Donovan Scudder corner 3-pointer that gave the Mohawks the momentum and an 18-17 lead.
Mohawk regained the lead, but Root ran the time down for a last shot of the half, then pulled up from deep 3-point range and hit a buzzer beater for a 23-21 halftime lead.
“They came out and battled,” Mohawk coach Michael Mathey said of his players. “They gave me a great effort. We haven’t had the best season as far as win and loss record, but they could have easily turned it in and said the heck with it, but they battled.
“We played well enough to win but just didn’t make enough plays in the end. It is tough when you don’t have much of an inside presence, but you still have to take those inside opportunities, which we tried to do tonight.”
Mohawk outscored St. Wendelin 8-7 in the third quarter, but another late Root 3-pointer gave the Mohawks confidence heading into the fourth quarter with a 30-29 lead.
Next up for St. Wendelin is an Old Fort team that won the Midland Athletic League championship at 10-0.
“They do a lot of different things well,” Rutter said of the Stockaders. “Offensively, they’ve got Hunter Perry, who averages nearly 30 points per game, but he’s not the only one they have. They have just five or six good athletes that play well, and defensively they come at you and give you a lot of pressure. They get you at both ends of the floor and they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. We have to come out and play well, handle the ball well and execute on offense.”
NOTE: St. Wendelin will be selling tickets in advance for the sectional title game in the school’s main office from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Tickets are priced at $6 for adults and $4 for students.
Fitschen 4-1–12, Parker 2-1–5, Stillberger 0-1–1, Johnson 3-1–7, Eaton 0-0–0, Dunlap 1-2–4, Morter 5-5–18, Fredrich 0-0–0, Pummell 0-0–0. TOTALS: 15-45 11-19 — 47.
st. wendelin (53)
Root 7-9–26, Murray 0-0–0, Campbell 1-0–2, Rutter 2-3–9, Frankart 1-0–2, Scudder 1-0–3, Walters 3-3–9, Schetter 0-0–0, Smith 0-0–0. TOTALS: 16-35 15-22 — 53.
Mohawk 13 18 8 18 — 47
St. Wendelin 7 16 7 23 — 53
3-Point GOALS: Mohawk 6-25 (Morter, Fitschen 3); St. Wendelin 6-19 (Root 3, Rutter 2, Scudder).
REBOUNDS: Mohawk 21 (Johnson 8); St. Wendelin 33 (Walters 10).
TURNOVERS: Mohawk 15; St. Wendelin 22.
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