Leopold holds off Risco before packed house

Saturday, January 10, 2009

LEOPOLD -- Leopold guard Darren VanGennip admitted that he got a tad nervous when he saw his team's 13-point halftime lead shrink to a five-point advantage late in the fourth quarter against state-ranked Risco on Friday night.

"I didn't want to throw it away and lose the game," VanGennip said. "We had to keep our composure, move the ball and play good defense. And that's what we did and we capped it off."

VanGennip, who poured in a game-high 31 points, scored seven points in the fourth quarter alone, including converting five free throws to help his team sink Risco.

The senior guard led the Wildcats to an impressive 66-59 win over the No. 8 ranked team in Class 1.

"I guess he [VanGennip] wasn't going to let us come into his house and beat him," Risco coach Brandon Blankenship said. "I felt like [VanGennip] he just kind of put them on his back all night. [Larry] Nussbaum, he's tough inside. But VanGennip was there so much for them."

The Leopold gym was packed. And the crowd was energized from the first quarter. It was so loud the players had trouble hearing one another.

"The crowd was into the game," Nussbaum said. "We couldn't hear each other out there. We were yelling plays and couldn't hear. We didn't know what was going on."

Risco (8-2) looked a little flat in the first half, but came out with more fire in the second half. It increased its defensive pressure, which allowed it to get back in the game.

VanGennip said he and his teammates had discussed how Risco was ranked, and its state ranking added to the intensity.

"The whole time this week during practice, we talked about beating Risco and then hopefully getting ranked in state," VanGennip said. "That was pretty intense for us and we came out and played our game. We played hard."

Leopold's other big scorer, Nussbaum, was matched against a strong post-player in Risco's Zack Williams.

VanGennip said with a tough player like Williams guarding Nussbaum, he knew he had to have a strong game.

"I noticed that during the first quarter," VanGennip said. "I thought to myself that I am going to have to read the defense and get my shot and make the right cuts. And that's what I did."

Leopold (8-2) jumped ahead 19-10 after the first quarter. VanGennip scored nine points, including netting two 3-pointers, and Nussbaum scored six points that period.

"We went into the game with the plan to stop their penetration," Leopold's Dustin Thiele said. "I didn't think we completely stopped it, but for the most part I think we shut them down on what they were used to doing."

While Nussbaum was shut down completely in the second quarter, VanGennip scored nine more points to help the Wildcats to a 36-23 lead at halftime.

"I don't know if it was so much our defense," Blankenship said. "They just came out hitting. They hit some tough shots. I felt like we were in their face on several of them. ... VanGennip, of course, had a big first half, too. They hit several tough shots in the first half as well. I didn't feel like we could buy a bucket in the first half."

Risco cut the lead to 40-33 with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the third with the help of some strong 3-point shooting.

But VanGennip knocked down a couple of jump shots to help his team pull ahead 48-38 at the end of the third period.

"Darren's a great competitor," Leopold coach Shawn Kinder said. "That's one thing he strives on. I feel like our defense let down in that third quarter, which helped them to get back into it a little bit. Now, they hit some shots. But we did look to run Darren ... off some screens and get him some looks. It worked out to our advantage there."

Nussbaum put it simply about VanGennip, saying: "He didn't miss a shot. He made every one of them."



@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:RISCO (59) -- Chris Williams 7, Ross Carter 7, Dillon Hill 11, Brandon Bennett 15, Zack Wiliams 19. FG 23, FT 4-13, F 20. (3-pointers: Carter 1, Hill 1, Bennett 2.)

LEOPOLD (66) -- Dustin Thiele 4, Wade Wiseman 4, David Fluchel 6, Darren VanGennip 31, Larry Nussbaum 15, Anthony Seabaugh 6. FG 22, FT 17-25, F 15. (3-pointers: VanGennip 3.)

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