Saxony boys to play for first district championship

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Saxony Lutheran's Zach Bohnert took a shot against Bloomfield during the second quarter of their Class 2 District 3 game Tuesday night at Chaffee High School. (Fred Lynch)

Crusaders top Bloomfield 59-55, while Meadow Heights falls to Puxico.

CHAFFEE -- Saxony Lutheran boys basketball coach John Daniel credited a halftime suggestion from one of his players for helping the Crusaders reach the program's first district championship game.

The top-seeded Crusaders trailed fifth-seeded Bloomfield by seven points at the break of Tuesday night's Class 2 District 3 tournament semifinal at Chaffee High School.

Senior forward Ben Courtois thought the Crusaders had allowed the Wildcats to dictate the tempo, so he approached Daniel at the intermission.

Courtois felt full-court pressure would help turn the tide in Saxony's favor.

Saxony Lutheran's Ben Courtois drove against Bloomfield's Corey Smith, left, and Jacob McNeil in the second quarter of their Class 2 District 3 game Tuesday night at Chaffee High School. (Fred Lynch)

"Our defensive intensity just wasn't there," explained Courtois. "Usually when we press it really helps us bring up our intensity."

Their intensity sufficiently amped, the Crusaders rallied for a 59-55 victory.

Saxony Lutheran (20-5) will play second-seeded, defending champion Puxico at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for the district crown.

"It's very exciting," senior guard Max Wieser said of the first district title appearance for the sixth-year program. "I'm so proud of everybody."

Daniel said he encourages his players to offer suggestions, and he appreciated the one Courtois handed out.

Saxony Lutheran's Bret Steffens, top, challenged Bloomfield's Kyle Williamson for the ball in the first quarter. (Fred Lynch)

"We made an adjustment at halftime, thanks to the suggestion of my senior captain," Daniel said. "We picked them up full court, and I think that made a big difference."

Daniel's two senior captains -- Wieser is the other -- helped bail out the Crusaders, with an assist from several teammates.

Wieser scored a game-high 20 points, 13 coming in the second half as Saxony overcame a 31-24 deficit.

Courtois added 14 points, nine over the final two quarters.

It still almost wasn't enough to knock off the determined Wildcats, who led the entire second and third periods.

"We knew it was going to be tough," Wieser said. "They were good."

Saxony, which trailed 43-40 after three quarters, looked like it might take control by opening up a 52-47 lead midway through the final period.

Bloomfield battled back for a 55-55 tie with under 2 minutes remaining.

Senior forward Austin Kwikkel's layup with 1:10 left put the Crusaders up 57-55 and they hung on from there.

Kwikkel made two big defensive plays, blocking a 3-point attempt with 46 seconds left and stealing a pass with 31 seconds remaining. He also led Saxony with 10 rebounds.

Wieser hit two free throws with 26 seconds left to seal the victory.

"Bloomfield does have an outstanding team," Daniel said.

Added Courtois: "They played us as tough as anybody has."

Now the Crusaders will turn their attention to Puxico, which rolled past sixth-seeded Meadow Heights 68-40 in Tuesday's other semifinal.

Puxico beat Saxony in last year's district semifinals. The Crusaders' four senior starters -- Zach Bohnert is the other -- hope to turn the tables and make school history.

"A district title has always been one of our things," Courtois said. "We have had 20-win seasons three years in a row, but we haven't won a district title."

Puxico 68,Meadow Heights 40

Puxico never trailed as the defending champion Indians steadily pulled away from the underdog Panthers.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Indians (16-9), led by J Hon and Matt Allison with 16 points each.

Meadow Heights (12-12) was paced by Tyler Wagner with 12 points and Dustin Hubler with 10. The Panthers won six of their final eight games this season.

"They played really well," Meadow Heights coach Tom Brown said of Puxico. "They won it last year and their experience showed.

"We only have two seniors and hopefully we learn from this."

Saxony Lutheran 59, Bloomfield 55

Saxony Lutheran12121619--59

BLOOMFIELD (55) -- Jacob McNeil 7, Blake Harris 7, Leighton Hensley 18, Kyle Williamson 16, Matt King 3, Corey Smith 4. FG 21, FT 9-10, F 15. (3-pointers: Harris 1, Hensley 2, King 1. Fouled out: none)

SAXONY LUTHERAN (59) -- Garrett Ruppel 6, Zach Bohnert 7, Brett Steffens 8, Max Wieser 20, Ben Courtois 14, Austin Kwikkel 4. FG 21, FT 11-16, F 13. (3-pointers: Ruppel 2, Steffens 2, Wieser 2. Fouled out: none)

Puxico 68, Meadow Heights 40

Meadow Heights991210--40

MEADOW HEIGHTS (40) -- Matt Groves 2, Dustin Hubler 10, Joseph Brown 3, Derrick Wilfong 6, Tyler Wagner 12, Ethan Mayfield 2, Tyler Welker 2, Luke Nitsch 3. FG 14, FT 9-10, F 16. (3-pointers: Brown 1, Wilfong 2. Fouled out: none)

PUXICO (68) -- J Hon 16, John Smith 12, Matt Allison 16, Kerry McClure 10, David Crain 14. FG 25, FT 9-16, F 10. (3-pointers: Hon 4, Smith 1, Allison 1, McClure 2, Crain 1. Fouled out: none)

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